by Donna Gephart
YHBA nominee, 2016-2017
Interest level: grades 3-8
Reading level: 4.7
5 out of 5 stars
The cover and title might lead you to believe that this is a funny, light-hearted story, but that is somewhat deceptive. While the story does have moments of laughter, very serious and heavy issues are tackled in this novel for readers in grades 4 through 8.
Benjamin Epstein loves entering sweepstakes and contests, and the chance to win the $10,000 grand prize in the Royal-T bathroom tissue slogan contest is the very thing he and his mom need right now. Since his father passed away, his mother has struggled to make ends meet. With an eviction notice hanging on their apartment door, Benjamin wants to help his mother keep their home and achieve her dreams of becoming a CPA.
Gephart manages to tackle the concerns of lower-income families with honesty and caring. Her strength is in the characters, and the strong bond between Benjamin and his mother, as well as his grandfather and friends. As a reader, I truly was concerned for Benjamin and his family. In addition to possibly losing their home, Benjamin must also deal with sharing a room with his grandfather, who is beginning to show signs of the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s.
Death by Toilet Paper will not overwhelm young readers with the serious topics that are tackled in this story. Gephart walks a perfect line between the humorous moments and serious issues, providing readers with a strong story about family and dealing with adversity.
Each chapter contains interesting facts and trivia about toilet paper, and the ending includes a zombie bride wearing a toilet paper dress. This is a wonderful story that shouldn’t be missed.