Cover image for The dark days of Hamburger Halpin / Josh Berk.
The dark days of Hamburger Halpin / Josh Berk.

1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred. A. Knopf, 2010.
Physical Description:
250 pages ; 22 cm
When Will Halpin transfers from his all-deaf school into a mainstream Pennsylvania high school, he faces discrimination and bullying, but still manages to solve a mystery surrounding the death of a popular football player in his class.


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1 Bob Harkins Branch BER Book Teen Collection

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Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

New student Will Halpin is overweight and deaf, and he adeptly eavesdrops on conversations by lip-reading while his own inner monologue is off and running. Debut author Berk injects Will's narrative voice with humor, irreverence, and self-deprecation; readers are also privy to Will's occasional horny thoughts about girls, which are funny and genuine without being overly vulgar ("The first thing I notice is this: public school girls are freaking hot. Nice. I try to focus on that and not on the sinking feeling that it might be way harder not to fail here than I thought"). Midway through, the story really takes off: after a football player takes a spill down a mineshaft on a field trip, Will and his new friend Devon try to solve the mystery of the student's death. Investigations into sleazy teachers and liked (and not-so-well-liked) classmates ensue. Much of the book's second half takes place in IMs between Will and Devon, which push the story forward at a lively pace. An engrossing whodunit that subtly draws attention to social issues surrounding deafness. Ages 12-up. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

Will Halpin recognizes that being deaf and overweight places him well beyond the edges of most social circles. Even so, when the school's star quarterback "accidentally" falls down a mine shaft, Will and his odd-squad of fellow outcasts solve the mystery and gain newfound regard. Will's frank, self-deprecating sense of humor keeps the story from getting too dark. Copyright 2010 of The Horn Book, Inc. All rights reserved.



CHAPTER ONE It is a cool September morning. The sun is breaking through the pines, and the air carries a tangy scent of freshness and renewal only to be found on the first day of school. I am rocking my plus-size Phillies sweatshirt and waiting with the others at the bus stop. Well, not exactly "with" them. As often happens when I'm out in the world, I place myself a little bit apart from the herd. I lean against a tree a few feet off to the side of a triangle formation of two cute girls and a dude. I get their names: A.J., Teresa, and Gabby. They hardly acknowledge me, so I return the favor. I have a lot on my mind anyway. Will I survive at the mainstream school? Should I seduce Nurse Weaver to stay out of special ed? I don't have a proven talent for normal, and it strains the limits of credibility to come up with a scenario that involves seducing Nurse Weaver, the school district RN who did my hearing test. (I passed, barely, by guessing and promising to wear my hearing aids, which are already stashed in my pocket--sucker!) Still, it is a fun thought. Nurse Weaver is a cutie. Thinking about seducing her is certainly preferable to imagining doing sexual favors for the person who really holds my future in her hands: Superintendent Sylvia P. Zirkel. I had to write a plea to SPZ to let me transfer from the deaf school to Carbon High. It was mostly lies, since I figured she wouldn't really understand the fight that forced my departure from the school for the deaf. Infights and deaf-world arguments rarely make sense to anyone else. She gave a distinctly wary OK, but I still have to be on her good side. If she deems it necessary, I will be bounced. Regardless, I will not allow myself to be taken advantage of by Superintendent Zirkel--a woman who looks like a skeleton in a Beatles wig and smells like beef. This is my solemn vow. Amen. Nurse Weaver might have guessed that I was fumbling through the hearing test, but she was impressed with my lipreading skills. They are fantastic, if I do say so myself. I was one of the two best lip-readers at my old school (the other being my ex-"girlfriend," Ebony). I'll have to rely on lipreading to get by, since this school district is still relatively underfunded despite all the newly rich moving in on the fringes of coal country. CHS cannot afford a cool captioning system like some of the fancy schools over the river. There are no interpreters. There's no structured "inclusion" program. What they have is pretty much "sink or swim." And from what I hear (so to sign, not speak), sink is the more common outcome. The school bus comes, and I cruise on. Geez. I didn't factor in this being so terrifying, seeing these unfamiliar faces all scrubbed and happy. Who are these people? There is one guy, a half-asleep-looking weirdo, slouching in the back, who seems like he should be on a prison bus. I plop down on the first seat behind the bus driver. The bus driver is a wiry and dangerous-looking man with a bizarre beard that rings his tanned face like an upside-down halo. Even though it is pretty cold out, he is wearing sandals, which reveal unnervingly long toenails. He is also eating a family-size bag of pork rinds for breakfast. A cocky kid who gets on at a stop after mine says something to Jimmy Porkrinds about his sandals, to which he replies, "My feet, my business." Pretty deep. Someone should engrave it on a plaque and/or make it into an inspirational poster to hang in bathrooms. For the rest of the trip, J.P. talks to himself. I love people who talk to themselves. through the rearview mirrow, I lip-read some strange stuff coming out of his mouth. Stuff that might have been song lyrics: "Dig, dig, dig the hole, hidey-hidey hole" and "Joke the mole, smoke a bowl." I write in my notebook: JIMMY PORKRINDS = ADDLED POTHEAD OR GIFTED LYRICIST? I also watch a few conversations from the rows behind me. Several kids, including Teresa and Gabby, have bro Excerpted from The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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