58 pages 1 hour read

Gordon Korman


Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2008

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Summary and Study Guide


Swindle is a middle-grade novel published in 2008 by Canadian American author Gordon Korman. In the story, 6th-grader Griffin Bing enlists a group of his classmates to retrieve a rare Babe Ruth baseball card from an unscrupulous collector known as Swindle, who has conned Griffin out of the card. The book is the first of eight books, as of 2019, in the popular Swindle series. Nickelodeon made a film of the same name based on the novel in 2013.

Plot Summary

The novel is written in the limited third-person past tense and follows the protagonist, 11-year-old 6th-grader Griffin, for most of the narrative. The story takes place in Griffin’s hometown of Cedarville, New York. Griffin, known to his best friend Ben Slovak as “The Man With The Plan,” convinces Ben to spend the night with him in the old Rockford house, an abandoned house that is slated to be torn down to make way for a local history museum. Griffin sees his act as a form of protest; at the town hall meeting to decide what would be built on the Rockford house lot, Griffin had proposed a skatepark and made a detailed presentation outlining his plan. However, the adults at the meeting refused to listen to him. Griffin wants the adults of his town to see that kids will not be put off so easily; he invited all of his classmates to join his overnight protest, but only Ben showed up.

While Griffin is exploring the house, he finds an old baseball card in a desk drawer. The card features Babe Ruth, and Griffin believes that it must be valuable. Griffin’s parents have been arguing about money lately because his father quit his full-time job to work on his invention, the SmartPick, a contraption designed to pick fruit from trees without bruising it. Griffin believes that he can sell the card for a lot of money and end his family’s financial troubles.

Griffin takes the card to be authenticated at Palomino’s Emporium of Collectibles and Memorabilia, owned by the dubious S. Wendell “Swindle” Palomino. Swindle tells Griffin the card is a reproduction from 1967 and offers him $200. Later, Griffin sees Swindle on television bragging about a rare 1920 Babe Ruth baseball card that he plans to sell at auction, estimating its value up to $1 million. Griffin realizes he has been duped, and that another adult has taken advantage of him. Griffin makes a plan with Ben to break into Swindle’s shop to steal back the card. Impressively, Griffin’s plan succeeds, but they discover that the safe containing the card is not in the store. 

Griffin then enlists the help of his classmates, each of whom has a special skill, to steal the card from Swindle’s home, which has even tighter security than his store. After contriving to get Swindle to leave his house, they implement a plan, which succeeds despite a series of mishaps. The heist makes the national news, and the police eventually discover that Griffin was the ringleader. They catch Griffin in the act of retrieving the card from the mailbox at the old Rockford house, where Griffin had mailed it for safekeeping after their heist. The police send the baseball card to Rockford’s last surviving relative, an older wealthy woman, who happens to also be related to one of Griffin’s classmates, Darren Vader. She gifts the card to Darren, and Darren’s parents sell the card and donate the proceeds to the town to build the museum and a skatepark.