The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread by Don Robertson was originally published in 1965. My 2008 HarperCollins paperback edition is 211 pages. Let me start out saying this book is a 5 and truly does belong next to other classics. I want HarperCollins to reprint the two sequels so I can continue to follow the life of Morris Bird III, a nine-year-old boy who discovers on the day he decides to skip school in order to visit a friend what it means to have self-respect and be brave. The setting is Cleveland in 1944, culminating on the day of the great gas explosion. While I can understand those who had two issues with Robertson's writing (his use of long paragraphs and toward the end of the book, each sentence in his long paragraphs switches to a different character), personally, I didn't have a problem with either and felt that the latter help create a sense of urgency. Find a copy of this book. Rating: 5
On a quiet autumn afternoon in 1944, nine-year-old Morris Bird III decides to visit a friend who lives on the other side of town. So he grabs the handle of his [sic] red wagon and, with his little sister in tow, begins an incredible pilgrimage across Cleveland . . . and out of childhood forever.
Set against the backdrop of one of the worst industrial disasters in American history, Don Robertson's enduring, beloved masterwork is a remarkable story of destiny, bravery, and responsibility, as fresh and relevant as when it first appeared in print.
"When the day was finished, two things had happened to the boy
First and most important, he had accomplished - in seeing his old buddy Stanley Chaloupka - what he had set out to do.
Second, he had behaved in such a way that the legless man had called him, for whatever it was worth, the greatest thing since sliced bread." pg. 2
"In his nine years, he had done all sorts of bad and stupid things. If he'd not made the allowances, he'd have gone crazy. Not that the allowances did away with the pain of Conscience, but at least they helped him somewhere in the region of his mind." pg. 6
"It wasn't until the day the gas tanks blew up that Morris Bird III really was able to make his peace with the salami sandwich incident." pg. 20
"This was because people, especially small boys, got a big charge out of calling him Morris Bird The Turd, or sometimes simply Bird Turd." pg. 27
Love and Bravery: Morris Bird III understood neither. Really understood, that is. He figured he had an idea of what they meant, but it was only an idea, not real knowledge." pg. 33
"The departure of Stanley Chaloupka in no way dropped the bottom out of Morris Bird III's life. He still had all the friends anyone would have wanted. The only thing was - he had no real buddy. The distance between a friend and a real buddy was large. With a friend, you had to watch yourself. With a real buddy you didn't." pg. 59-60
"Mrs. Dallas....said, 'one of the best feelings there is is the accomplishing of something that is difficult. It's something that's yours. It's something that no one can take away from you. And it's brave too, very brave. Determination means courage, and courage means you're a real person....It could be telling yourself you're going to walk a mile and then going out and walking it....It helps your self respect...' " pg. 69
"Conducting a field trip was probably as enjoyable for a teacher as carrying an armful of warm snakes..." pg. 77