I Want to Go Home

I Want To Go Home! by Gordon Korman was my favourite book for many-a-year. It's possibly Korman's funniest book, and Korman is the funniest of authors. If you've only read his recent stuff you probably think I'm crazy right now, but trust me. Korman used to be hilarious, and though not as famous as Bruno and Boots, this book is as good a choice as any be introduced to Korman's brilliance. It's a quick read, so why not give it a shot?

(Printed 1981. ISBN 0-590-44210-4.)

Alcatraz and Daring Escapes (Or: The Setting and The Plot)

Here's how it is: Rudy Miller is at Summer camp on Algonkian Island. This sucks as he does not play baseball, run, play soccer, swim, or do anything else other than play chess and listen to his Sony Walkman. Rudy Wants To Go Home, and he dedicates himself to escaping what he lovingly deems Alcatraz.

That's really all there is to it. Rudy tries to escape, and he gets foiled again and again. You don't need an intricate plot when you're writing a brilliant comedy. Just good characters. Speaking of which...

Prisoners and Prison Guards (Or: The Characters)

Korman's books--the older, funny ones anyway--tend to be a standard double act: the zany guy who wants to do crazy stuff and his best friend--the main character--who hesitantly goes along with it. Bruno and Boots, Bugs Potter and Adam Webb, Paul Abrams and Sheldon Pryor, Raymond Jardine and Sean Delancey, and now Rudy Miller and Mike Webster.

Rudy is not so zany as the typical Korman lead. Sure, he enjoys creating riots, but he's always calm and reserved, speaking primarily to exercise his dry wit, usually with Cabin 13 counselor Chip as the straight man.

Neither Mike nor Rudy like camp. Mike, however, would be willing to stick it out so long as he had Rudy to hang out with. Rudy, however, is not, so as Rudy is determined to escape what he's lovingly deemed Alcatraz, Mike always goes along with the plans with only minimal resistance.

Fellow camper Howard Greene is Rudy and Mike's primary gadfly. He's a fairly passive one--mostly just calling Rudy and Mike nuts--and an excellent patsy. Between Howard and Chip, Rudy never runs out of ways to keep the reader entertained.

Chip is an enemy of Rudy, but a sympathetic character. Rudy doesn't dislike Chip. Chip's just in his way: Rudy wants to leave and Chip won't let him. While Harold is a jerk, Chip is a nice guy who just doesn't know how to handle Rudy, who drives him crazy. This is in stark contrast to arts and crafts counselor Pierre, who takes Rudy's behaviour in stride and is the only truly worthy opponent Rudy has.

In addition to the counselors (clones, Rudy calls them, due to their all being young muscular men in identical clothing), every camp needs a camp director, and in this case it's Arthur Warden, grandson of camp founder Elias Warden.

"How appropriate," murmured Rudy, nodding wisely. "A Warden for Alcatraz."

Mr. Warden maintains that there are no problems at Algonkian. His way of addressing everything is that this camp was founded thirty-one years ago by his grandfather, Elias Warden, and in all that time, X has never happened. It's impossible to explain things to him because he Just Won't Listen.

Detention, detention, detention! (Or: Detention, detention, detention!)

"I've lost count of their work details," admitted Chip. "For all I know they're on until Christmas!"

Well, someone should keep track of work detail, so here goes. Spoilers follow!

Day 2: 2 days work detail for spilling his breakfast on Howard Greene:

"Miller won't be coming," announced Harold Greene sarcastically. "All he does is listen to the radio."
Miller stood up, picked up his tray and started towards the tray-return conveyor belt. As he passed the end of the table, he carefully tilted the tray, sending the remains of his breakfast--corn flakes and milk, scrambled eggs and orange juice--sliding off into Harold's lap.
"Oops," he said mildly.
A high-pitched giggle escaped Mike Webster.
"Miller," stormed Chip, "you did that on purpose!"
"He did that on purpose!" echoed Harold, outraged.
"It does look that way," Rudy admitted.

2 days work detail for Mike for laughing during Warden's speech.

Day 3: 1 day for Mike's "How did you know?" when Chip asks if they're building a dam. 1 day for Rudy for putting garbage in Harold's pillow.

My pillow--there's something in my pillow! Someone put something in my pillow! Miller put something in my pillow! Chip! Chip!"

Day 4:: 1 day each for Rudy, Mike, and Harold for arguing at the table and comments about the phantom wood-butcher. Another each for Ruby and Mike because the Warden has crooked legs.

Day 5: 1 for Greene for the rubber ducky comment.

Day 6: 5 days each for Rudy and Mike for stealing a boat. "Today is our last of our two days work detail. Tomorrow we can start serving our five."

Day 7: Another two each for trying to escape in the morning. Five more each for taking the supply boat at breakfast. Plus kitchen duty today and tomorrow. And then five more work detail and two more kitchen duty after Chip goes water skiing on his face. Two more days work detail for flavouring the soup. All kitchen duty revoked at the end of the day at the behest of the kitchen staff.

Day 8: Ten more days of work detail each for escaping to the mainland.

Day 9: All punishments transferred to a random counselor by camp directory Rudy Miller. "Let's pick a number at random--uh, say, thirteen."

Day 11: Five days each for missing a soccer goal.

Day 12: Five more days work detail for hogging all the girls at the dance.

The book essentially ends on Visiting Day (Day 14), though there's also a bit on the final day (Day 28, I suppose).

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