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The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  197 ratings  ·  64 reviews
Who is Gretchen Oyster? The discovery of a series of mysterious handmade postcards distracts Hartley from trouble at home.

Hartley Staples, near-graduate of middle school, is grappling with the fact that his older brother has run away from home, when he finds a handmade postcard that fascinates him. And soon he spots another. Despite his losing interest in pretty much every
...more
Hardcover, 188 pages
Published September 17th 2019 by Tundra Books (NY)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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Tucker  (TuckerTheReader)

Many thanks to Tundra Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

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strange

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Canadian Reader
“what i’ve realized is you never know what will happen next”

Thirteen-year-old Hartley Staples’ troubled brother, Jackson, disappeared nine months ago. It isn’t the first time he’s run away. Jackson made previous escapes when he was eleven and fourteen, but those attempts, being of shorter duration, did not shake the family’s foundations the way this one has. Jackson’s twin sister, Heather, has withdrawn from the world. The youngest Staples child, George, is the least troubled. His quirky ima
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Amy
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a DRC of this title for review. All opinions are my own.

I REALLY wanted to like this one more. And, what is especially heartbreaking to me is that this book has all the potential in the world. Struggling family dynamic? CHECK (older brother ran away). Quirky narrator? CHECK (narrates as a person telling an actual story, jumps in to give eccentric details, has anxiety, decides to do a report on tractors). Interesting side character
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Donna Merritt
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed this book and will be adding it to our grade 4-5 school library. The voices are authentic, particularly 8th grader Hartley and high schooler Gretchen. Even though they are older than my library patrons, the content is appropriate for younger readers, which is refreshing. Hartley's older brother, Jackson, has run away and his family (Hartley, his parents, Heather—Jackson's twin, and George—the youngest and such a cute character, but too young to be as affected as the rest of the family) i ...more
Vikki VanSickle
An absolute perfect gem of a novel. Fagan's spare prose and memorable characters pack a lot of emotional punch. Art, individuality, loneliness, and connection all run deep in this deceptively slim little novel. The finished book is a gorgeous objet d'art, featuring Gretchen's full-colour postcards and a number of deluxe design touches that make this already exquisite story a thing of physical beauty as well. For fans of Kate DiCamillo and Holly Goldberg Sloan.
Amy Layton
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade-lit
This is a magnificent, humorous, and hopeful book about the journey of Hartley Staples and the struggles he manages to wade through.  His brother ran away nine months ago, and his family is now trying to move on while remaining hopeful but realistic.  Their town--a small thing that has a mobile home as a library--put forth multiple search efforts and came up with nothing.  Hartley successfully used his missing brother as a means to get out of doing the final project--but finds himself guilty and ...more
Erin
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
An odd book. Strong character development and little-to-no plot.

I liked the main character, though at times he seemed to vacillate in maturity level. (And not in the way kids do. Not even in the way that children who've experienced trauma do. Rather, in the way protagonists do when the author doesn’t know what kids are like.)

My biggest problem was, the MC had no agency. He wasn’t driving the story. Things just kept happening to him. When he finally takes action at the end of the story, it happe
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Stephanie
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It was such a pleasure to dive into Cary Fagan’ new middle grade story The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster. I have always loved Cary Fagan’s writing and was especially drawn to the design of this story first, curious how John Martz and Cary Fagan together created such an interesting cover design along with the illustrations inside. As a young person I loved to make collages. I feel like making collages of all the things you love were the 90s version of the vision board. There is something so ...more
Mmmhhmm
Mar 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ms. Arca
Oct 29, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5
Things I loved -
The art / collages/ zones what have you. I was just as enamored with them as our MC.
I appreciated that this was a boy MC voice considering the ups and downs of navigating friendships, mental health, and home life and feeling compelled towards art. Really grateful this is a boy for this voice.

The mental health stuff / pain of the family was palpable and done decently well for MG level feelings and poignancy (and staying in confusing in between sin realistic ways at times).

Thi
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Teresa
I love Hartley Staples. Hartley narrates this story of his wounded family (his older brother Jackson ran away) with wry self Awareness that is completely endearing. His well-meaning parents are too distracted to involve themselves with him; his sister, Jackson's twin, lashes out at him from her own hurt. So he's just avoiding boredom at the library when he finds a cryptic postcard, a copy of a hand colleged, poetic snippet signed "g.o." (These beautiful cards add a lot to the story.). Who is g.o ...more
Debbie Smith
Aug 21, 2019 rated it liked it
This is such a quirky, unusual book. And by that, I think I’m probably talking more about the writing style than the story.

Hartley finds himself at a loss when his older brother, Jackson, runs away from home. It seems each family member is trying to handle the loss in their own way and not finding much time for each other. But when Hartley finds a strange postcard, and then another, and another, his life begins to slowly change. Each postcard is a bit artsy, there is a picture, a typewritten mes
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Melissa T
I liked the potential that this book had. It just didn't live up to my expectations.

Hartley does a lot of telling in the story. He just kind of meanders along, going through these heavy issues like his brother running away, and how that's changed his family dynamic. But there's no real feeling to the experience. You're in the middle of it, and he's just telling you about it as he goes along.

You can tell that he's lost, and he's struggling. But I didn't really feel sorry for hm at all, because
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Rendz
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5
*I was provided a review copy by Tundra Books*
This was a very thoughtful, funny and heart-warming story. It follows Hartley through his final weeks of the 8th grade as he tries to balance school and family life after some very unexpected events. Hartley was such a wonderful MC. Intuitive, curious and compassionate. His adventure following these mysterious postcards is fun and full of laughter. I also loved that we got some snippets of POV from G.O. who was such an interesting character.
The st
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Suzanne
May 24, 2019 rated it liked it
The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster is a quirky story about families and friendship. It was not what I was expecting as I started reading but it turned into a sweet message about searching - searching for answers to family problems, searching for friendships both old and new and searching to be understood. The story centers around a boy, Hartley who is trying to understand why his older brother has run away and the impact it is having on his family. He is struggling to focus on anything aroun ...more
Samantha-Jayne
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michelle Kidwell
Sep 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster
by Cary Fagan

Penguin Random House Canada

Tundra Books

Children’s Fiction , Middle Grade

Pub Date 17 Sep 2019

I am reviewing a copy of The Collected Works Of Gretchen Oyster through Tundra Books and Netgalley:

Hartley Staples, who is a near graduate of Middle School has a lot to grapple, like the fact that his older brother has run away from home, when he finds a handmade postcard that fascinated him. And soon he finds another card.

Despite loosing interest in pret
...more
Chris
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: voice, life, j, not-graphic
A lovely, quiet little story about big emotions and small connections. Hartley makes an excellent narrator as he and his family struggle to find ways to express the grief they feel about the disappearance nine months earlier of his older brother. It can be hard to feel anything when you feel too much. Then he starts randomly finding a series of handmade art-poem cards that somehow touch him, the vague sadness of the anonymous artist, and hunting down more helps him rediscover what it feels like ...more
Lauren Mendez
Aug 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-books-read
This is a thoughtful middle grade novel about Hartley. Hartley’s family experiences significant stress and sorrow because his older brother Jackson ran away from home. Hartley misses his brother. One day he comes across a card that intrigues him. The cards are clearly written by someone else who understands what it is like to experience hardship. A new bond is formed. I enjoyed this novel overall, but will note that the writing is a little sporadic at times, and a few times it took me a moment t ...more
Susan
Reading "The Collected Works" by Cary Fagan made me want to read more Cary Fagan. Poignant, gentle, real, the story follows the Hartley Staples through the last months of his grade eight year. His family is reeling with the disappearance of his older brother who has run away from home. Hartley is doing his best to support his parents and survive the day to day. You will laugh and cry as you read about Hartley's days but that's not all. There is a mysterious g.o. who is woven into the story. The ...more
Sharon Tacon
Jan 04, 2020 rated it liked it
The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster is a first-person account of the emotional coming-of-age of the central character, Hartley. Sealed off from his parents as the family copes with the loss of his runaway older brother, Hartley has no one to help him with his own thoughts and feelings. He lacks the life experience to understand what is happening and finds himself distracted by the discovery of handmade postcards randomly appearing around town. The title asks “who is Gretchen Oyster” but the s ...more
Patti Sabik
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya
3.5 A quiet but powerful read. The young narrator’s voice is so compelling, he draws you into his story and makes you part of his life. I likes the writing style for the added bonus that it teaches writing skills as the reader moves through the book because Hartley describes why he says certain things in particular ways which I found clever. The illustrations are captivating. A half star was deducted for a hasty conclusion, but otherwise this was a most enjoyable book.
Barbra
Oct 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Hartley has lost interest in almost everything, including middle school since his older brother Jackson ran away. When he finds some strange homemade postcards, he obsesses with finding out who made them. Along the way we learn about his struggles with family and friends, and discover more about the mysterious creator named g.o. This easy to read, engaging story for ages 10 to 14, touches on mental illness, the influence art has on life, and finding yourself.
Genna
Aug 04, 2020 rated it liked it
This book had a simple premise and was written for young readers so I wasn’t expecting much out of it but I did enjoy it. Although some of the actual plot lines were odd it worked. The narrator was definitely what sold me on the book and I love it when the narrator is talking to the reader adding small tidbits of information here and there. I also appreciated how the ending tied everything up so neatly, I expected an open ending and was pleasantly surprised.
Laura Phelps
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: possiblemsba2019
This is a quirky book and I liked it. Hartley is trying to cope with the fact that his beloved older brother has run away, while at the same time trying to solve the mystery of who is leaving illustrated cards with cryptic messages around town. The cards themselves are really cool, and lend a philosophical angle to Hartley’s quest. A short and accessible text for middle grade readers.
MayorEmma
May 28, 2019 rated it liked it
I received an arc of this book from netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

What I liked:
-This was a pretty quick story, so I didn't lose interest.
-Cool cover!
-It had an air of mystery to it, but it wasn't really ''a mystery'' book.

Overall, it was a pretty good story, but not one I would read again.
Clarissa
Dec 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is wonderful, with terrific art. Hartley has problems. His family is barely holding it together since his brother ran away from home, he doesn’t know what to do his final big project about, and he has become obsessed with the strange art cards he keeps finding around town. It felt like a well written slice of life. I would have liked it to keep going .
Holyn
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-books
At my middle schooler’s request, I read this novel. It’s a lovely combination of visual art and writing - felt more like a novella than a full novel to me. I give it 3.5 and my child gives it 4.5 stars. Both of us wish it was longer.
We both enjoyed the quirkiness of g.o. and I appreciated a book that attempted to handle some hard life experiences with compassion.
Erin Logan
Jul 09, 2020 rated it liked it
A lost, misfit tween finds hope in art he keeps finding in random places around town. He somehow feels connected to these cards and the artist, a mysterious g.o. who has blue hair. This was a nice, fast read that nearly any early middle grade kid would enjoy. I loved that it worked hope and emotion through art, as is the way of the world.
KWinks
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this. If Wes Anderson wrote a middle grade novel, it would be a lot like this. Hartley will win you over in the first couple of chapters and Gretchen will hammer it home. Now I want to use this in a book club just to make these collage cards.
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Cary is an award-winning author for children. His kids' books include the popular Kaspar Snit novels, the two-volume Master Melville's Medicine Show, and the picture book Mr. Zinger's Hat, winner of the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award and the IODE Jean Throop Award. He has also won the Jewish Book Award and been shortlisted for the Silver Birch Award (five times), the Rocky Mountain Book Award ...more

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