Cover image for Me and Marvin Gardens / Amy Sarig King.
Me and Marvin Gardens / Amy Sarig King.

Publication Information:
New York, NY : Scholastic Inc., 2018

Physical Description:
243 pages : illustrations ; 19 cm
Obe Devlin spends a lot of his time cleaning up the creek that runs through what little is left of his family's once extensive farmland, and worrying about what the developers are doing nearby, and the pollution it is causing--but one day he finds a strange creature by his creek that eats plastic, and soon the animal he calls Marvin Gardens becomes his personal secret, which he believes needs to be protected from pretty much everybody.
Program Information:
AR MG 4.5 8.0.

Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.5 8 187593.


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
KIN Paperback Junior Paperback Fiction

On Order



YA superstar A.S. King's first middle-grade novel is a boy-meets-animal story like no other!

Obe Devlin has problems. His family's farmland has been taken over by developers. His best friend Tommy abandoned him for the development kids. And he keeps getting nosebleeds, because of that thing he doesn't like to talk about. So Obe hangs out at the creek by his house, in the last wild patch left, picking up litter and looking for animal tracks. One day, he sees a creature that looks kind of like a large dog, or maybe a small boar. And as he watches it, he realizes it eats plastic. Only plastic. Water bottles, shopping bags... No one has ever seen a creature like this before, because there's never been a creature like this before. The animal-Marvin Gardens-soon becomes Obe's best friend and biggest secret. But to keep him safe from the developers and Tommy and his friends, Obe must make a decision that might change everything.

Author Notes

Amy Sarig King has published many critically acclaimed young adult novels under the name A. S. King, including Please Ignore Vera Dietz, which won a Michael L. Printz Honor, and Ask the Passengers, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and children and teaches writing at the Sierra Nevada College, Lake Tahoe MFA program. Visit her website at and follow her on Twitter at @AS_King.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Obe Devlin, 11, lost his only friend when new kids moved into subdivisions named for the things their homes displaced-Pheasant's Nest, Oak Trail, the Orchards-on farmland that once belonged to his family. A perceptive narrator, Obe finds solace at the creek that runs through the slice of property his parents still own, which is where he first spots a strange animal whose most notable feature is his diet: plastic litter. Obe, whose father employs a win-at-all-costs strategy during family Monopoly games, names the critter Marvin Gardens but keeps him a secret-which turns out to be an especially wise move once he realizes that the animal produces highly noxious (and possibly toxic) scat. King (Still Life with Tornado) leavens a story replete with brutal environmental facts with a magical friendship between a boy and his "pretty gross pet." A provocative exploration of human action and interaction on both local and global levels, as well as the interplay between past, present, and future, King's novel will leave readers pondering how we treat each other and the planet. Ages 8-12. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

The middle-grade debut of YA novelist A.S. King (Still Life with Tornado, rev. 9/16) was bound to be a little weird--and it is. It's also a smart, environmentally conscious underdog story with a lot of heart and a little sci-fi. Sixth-grader Obe lives with his parents and older sister at the edge of a massive housing development being built on land that once belonged to his mother's family, the Devlins. Obe is an outcast at school, nicknamed "the hippie" and bullied by his former best friend Tommy's new crew. While picking up trash from Devlin Creek, Obe spies a strange creature: "It was definitely not a dog. It was definitely not any animal I ever read aboutWhat was this thing?" Obe soon befriends the "animal/ creature/monster/thing" and names it Marvin Gardens. Marvin's favorite food is plastic, and its scat is toxic. When Tommy's gang gets wind of the creature, Obe realizes it's up to him to protect Marvin. Interspersed chapters flash back a century to the story of Obe's great-grandparents (his great-grandfather "drank 175 acres of Devlin land"), helping contextualize events. To a person (and a creature), the characters are rewardingly complex. Through Obe, King asks the Big Questions ("One hundred years from nowwould people live a different way--a way that helped the planet?") alongside the smaller, more personal ones (can Tommy be trusted?) in a way that will likely have readers doing the same. elissa gershowitz(c) Copyright 2017. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

New York Review of Books Review

"THEIR TALES ARE full of sorcerers and ogres / Because their lives are," the poet Randall Jarrell wrote in "Children Selecting Books in a Library." No wonder fantasy books are popular with kids: Middle-grade readers, in particular, are not far removed from a time in their lives when the real and the fantastic were often indistinguishable - toddler meets light switch, to give just one example. Therefore, the standard for the suspension of disbelief in children's novels is both lower and more exacting. Young readers enter imaginary worlds eagerly and effortlessly. An invisible train platform accessible only by walking into a brick wall? No problem. But the jelly beans sold on that train better come in every flavor - every flavor, including earwax and sardine. These kinds of details buttress the sense of realness and wholeness in fantasy worlds. Stories containing only a single fantastical element pose an authorial challenge: How to make the unreal real without the help of other fantasy minutiae. Amy Sarig King faces that challenge in "Me and Marvin Gardens," her heartfelt middle-grade debut (she has written many acclaimed young adult novels as A. S. King). King introduces us to the sixth grader Obe (pronounced OH-bee) Devlin and his rural Pennsylvania environs with a sure hand. The acreage once owned by Obe's family (presumably white, with a mention of German-Irish ancestry) was sold off a bit at a time by his alcoholic greatgrandfather, and is now being turned into housing developments. Phases 1 and 2 are complete, with Phase 3 creeping ever closer to Obe's home. The family has managed to hang on to a tiny parcel of land that includes Devlin Creek, Obe's special place, where he discovers an unfamiliar animal: "His back end was dog, except for the nubby tail. His front end was porcine. . . . His hooves were weird because he had toes." Obe names the creature Marvin Gardens, after the Monopoly property. Marvin is slimy: Touching him is "like petting algae." He eats plastic and produces toxic scat. What will Obe do to protect Marvin from Phase 3? Like most young firstperson narrators, Obe is self-aware and sensitive, with the portrayal of his interior life unusually nuanced. His concern and uncertainty both drive the plot and are the reason for the story's success: The realness is contained within Obe himself. We believe him, so by extension, we believe his world - which includes an animal whose favorite food is milk-jug caps. Most chapters begin with the phrase "There was . . . " or "There were. . . . " Chapter 1: "There were mosquitoes"; Chapter 45: "There was science." This strategy initially seemed to me a risky one: I've often asked writing students if they really want to start a chapter with two completely empty words. But I admire writers who intentionally use poetic technique to amplify prose. And that repetition is reinforced by occasional chapters titled identically "One Hundred Years Ago," telling how Obe's greatgrandfather lost the family land. Like a poem or song with motif and chorus, all the repetition becomes another element propelling the story forward even as it explores the past. A GOOD CHILDREN'S NOVEL always contains opportunities for learning - which is not the same as didactic moralizing, since story takes precedence. Here readers can learn about land use, ecology and plastic; there are also subplots about bullying and consent. Most of the secondary characters are adroitly drawn - Obe's mother and sister; a terrific teacher; two friends. Obe's father is somewhat flatter, though he's partly redeemed by his Monopoly obsession, which inspires the name of Obe's animal friend. A final quibble: It strains credibility that Marvin Gardens, a peculiar and good-size animal unafraid of humans, is undiscovered until Obe happens on him. But as with any story, not just fantasies, we readers skip lightly over small cracks in the plot when the book's world is constructed with such skill and passion that we can get lost in it, as we do along Devlin Creek. LINDA SUE PARK is the author of "A Single Shard," "A Long Walk to Water" and many other books for young readers, including her most recent, the first two novels in the Wing and Claw series.