The Glass Collectors by Robert C. Tabb
Publication Date: April 28, 2012
Pages: 212 pages
Keywords: holidays, 5th grade, gifts, bad luck
Target audience: Middle grade; certainly a family read
Format read: eBook sent to me from author. (Thanks!)
Summary: Nothing seems to go right for Emerson. He can’t pass the tests in his fifth grade class nor can he show up for school on time. With the holidays around the corner, Emerson is soon obsessed with the idea of creating beautiful glass candleholders for his mother… by collecting each piece of glass by himself. In the meantime, classmate Walt deals with much more responsible than a 5th grader should and Wheels, a huge baseball fan who is stuck inside during recess because of his wheelchair, is looking for one reason to WANT to go to school.
Do you remember when you were in fifth grade and every decision, every move felt like it was a life or death?
Indie author Robert Tabb expresses this urgency and invincibility quite well in The Glass Collectors. At first, I thought the characters had quite mature voices for their age but then I remembered, oh hey I used to talk and think like that too because everything was so mega important back then.
Lead character Emerson seems to be behind on the eight-ball most of the time. His mom works a lot, his dad has left, and he sort of takes care of himself (in what I’m assuming is a safe, safe town). He’s late for school, he can’t pay attention in class, and he’s always concocting some kind of outlandish plan — like making his mother a Christmas present. As a reader, there’s no way I thought a 5th grader collecting glass and gluing it together was a good idea but Emerson thinks it’s genius and will stop at nothing to get it done.
You have to admire his tenacity.
In the meantime, his peers, Walt and Wheels, are facing some real predicaments. Walt is stuck caring for his younger sisters, after his mom jumped ship and his dad is unable to deal. His Mr. Mom routine is very cute and very admirable, but I couldn’t help but feel saddened by it. He needed help. And Wheels doesn’t have many friends due to his disability disabling his social life.
There’s a lot going on. The characters jump back and forth pretty quickly, and I think The Glass Collectors would have benefited from a layout that pointed out the switch in POV a little bit better. I would have liked more development in the lives of Wheels and Walt as well; the connection between the three would be that much stronger. (A detail I did love was the sarcastic 5th grade teacher.)
The Glass Collectors, set in 1989, certainly illuminates with nostalgia (who else remembers those annual gift shops with the #1 Dad merchandise? My dad still has some of it.) and the spirit of the holiday season. Emerson reminds me of a walking disaster with a whole lot of heart, and you can’t help but wonder how his plan is going to turn out.
While the pace certainly picks up as you get further and further in, Tabb ends too prematurely and the impact is not as great as it could be. In fact, instead of an epilogue, I would have loved for the story to end in 1989 with the future left untold. Despite a few of my qualms, I could definitely picture a parent reading this to their children before bed for a few nights in a row or an older reader plowing right through it.
It’s certainly a feel good holiday story with a good amount of charm and utter silliness. Think A Christmas Story meets Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
The nostalgia, the young crowd in the book = “Linus + Lucy” instrumental by Vince Guaraldi Trio from one of my personal favorites, A Charlie Brown Christmas.