Cover image for The Glass Cafe, or, The stripper and the state : how my mother started a war with the system that made us kind of rich and a little bit famous
The Glass Cafe, or, The stripper and the state : how my mother started a war with the system that made us kind of rich and a little bit famous
Paulsen, Gary.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Wendy Lamb Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
99 pages ; 19 cm
When twelve-year-old Tony, a talented artist, begins sketching the dancers at the Kitty Kat Club where his mother is an exotic dancer, it sparks the attention of social services.
Reading Level:
1500 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.6 2.0 74760.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 6.9 6 Quiz: 33919 Guided reading level: Y.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



THE STORY IS all true and happened to me and is mine. Tony's mom, Al, is a terrific single mother who works as a dancer at the Kitty Kat Club. Twelve-year-old Tony is a budding artist, inspired by backstage life at the club. When some of his drawings end up in an art show and catch the attention of the social services agency, Al and Tony find themselves in the middle of a legal wrangle and a media circus. Is Al a responsible mother? It's the case of the stripper vs. the state, and Al isn't giving Tony up without a fight. Once again Gary Paulsen proves why he's one of America's most-beloved writers.The Glass Caféis a fresh and funny exploration of motherhood, art, and the wiles of storytelling--all told by Tony, in his own true voice.

Author Notes

Gary Paulsen was born on May 17, 1939 in Minnesota. He was working as a satellite technician for an aerospace firm in California when he realized he wanted to be a writer. He left his job and spent the next year in Hollywood as a magazine proofreader. His first book, Special War, was published in 1966. He has written more than 175 books for young adults including Brian's Winter, Winterkill, Harris and Me, Woodsong, Winterdance, The Transall Saga, Soldier's Heart, This Side of Wild, and Guts: The True Stories Behind Hatchet and the Brian Books. Hatchet, Dogsong, and The Winter Room are Newbery Honor Books. He was the recipient of the 1997 Margaret A. Edwards Award for his lifetime achievement in writing for young adults.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6-8. This first-person contemporary story is based on an incident from Paulsen's past but it seems like a fairy tale. Twelve-year-old Tony lives with his mother, Al, a stripper who is working toward her doctorate in literature (she loves Dickens.) They're great pals, so when Tony, a talented artist, wants to hone his skills, Al takes him to the club where she works, and he sketches the women in various stages of undress, perceptively conveying their weariness or the mileage they have on them. Tony's art teacher sends the drawings to a contest--and a viewer calls social services. Al is not about to have Tony removed from her care without a fight, and a legal battle ensues. In a very happy ending, Tony and Al win the case, and, for rather vague reasons, Al wins a lot of money in a settlement from the state, enabling her to become a full-time student. There are lots of problems besides the premise. With a pocket-size format and fewer than 100 pages, this is more like a short story than a novel or even a novella, and Paulsen often breaks a cardinal rule of fiction by telling not showing. Still, this may work for reluctant readers or hardcore Paulsen fans. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

In one of his minor efforts, the prolific Paulsen serves up a righteous, pro-free-speech theme accompanied by big helpings of over-the-top plot lines. Twelve-year-old Tony, in whose disingenuously na?ve voice the story is told, lives with his single mom, Al, a stripper with a heart of gold who hopes to finance a Ph.D. in literature. In art class at school, Tony discovers a talent for drawing, and almost overnight he produces an extraordinarily nuanced set of life drawings, using his mother's barely clothed co-workers as models. When his enraptured art teacher enters his work in a show, someone reports Al to the state as an unfit mother (for encouraging her son "to draw pornographic pictures"). Enter a policeman and a thick-headed social worker, and before readers can say SWAT team, the action escalates to a conflagration worthy of national news coverage. Besides the exaggerated events, Paulsen looks to the endless run-on sentences and artless grammar of Tony's delivery for humor ("So you know my name is Tony and I am twelve and my mother who is named Alice except nobody calls her that, they all call her Al, like she was a guy only she isn't, is a stripper, only it's called exotic dancing, at a club called the Kitty Kat, except that everybody calls it the Zoo," reads the first half of the first sentence). Readers who like this style of writing can rest easy: Paulsen maintains that style all the way to the end. Ages 10-up. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-9-Growing up with a terrific single mom who works as an exotic dancer never bothered Tony. But when he draws some of the dancers at the Kitty Kat Club for an art class homework assignment and they end up in an art show, social services is called in to investigate his unique home life. After a disastrous visit from a social worker and a policeman, Tony and his mom, Al, are arrested and a media frenzy ensues. A biker, the SWAT team, Charles Dickens, and a couple of attorneys are also involved in Paulsen's thoughtful and entertaining story (Wendy Lamb Bks., 2003). Narrator Tod Haberkorn turns in an energetic and honest performance as Tony, creating a likeable kid who listeners will be rooting for. The audience will be immersed in 12-year-old Tony's nonstop, high-octane perspective of the world, or his tiny corner of it, from beginning to end. This edgy audiobook will have listeners talking about it long after its conclusion.-Jennifer Mann, Cromaine Library, MI (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



CHAPTER ONE So you know my name is Tony and I am twelve and my mother who is named Alice except nobody calls her that, they all call her Al, like she was a guy only she isn't, is a stripper, only it's called exotic dancing, at a club called the Kitty Kat, except that everybody calls it the Zoo on account of an animal act they used to have but don't anymore because the humane society said it was wrong to use snakes out of their "natural element" although Muriel, who danced with a seven-foot boa named Steve, swore that the snake slept through the whole dance except I know Steve who lives in the dressing room in a glass case and I can't tell if he's sleeping or not because he never closes his eyes. This is what I like. I like double bacon cheeseburgers and vanilla shakes. I like school where I get pretty good grades in everything except gym and sometimes math when it doesn't make any sense to me like when we have to figure out two trains traveling at different speeds and which one will get to a place called Parkerville first. There is never a place called Parkerville in real life and hardly any trains go anywhere anymore and why would two trains be trying to get to place called Parkerville in the first place? It's just silly. I like Melissa Davidson who is twelve and has short hair and sparks and crackles when she gets mad. A lot. I mean I like her a lot. I like art and always carry a sketch pad and a couple of soft pencils and draw every chance I get, which is really how the trouble started but I'll talk more about that later after I do what Ms. Providge the English teacher calls "developing the structure and character" of the story. This story. This story about my life. I like dogs except that I'm not supposed to have one because the apartment we live in won't allow pets which doesn't seem right because they allow a biker and his woman to live there and a dog is a lot cleaner than a biker. Or at least this biker, who is named Short Man and is so dumb he tried to drink gasoline one day just because it was in a beer bottle and he spit it out on a lit barbecue grill and there were barbecued chicken parts all over the apartment compound and I heard he didn't have a hair left on his head. I know plenty of dogs smarter than that. So I keep trying on the dog thing, doing what Al calls pushing the envelope by bringing them to visit sometimes. Or to be honest every chance I get. I like Corvettes. I know it's not cool to like them as much as foreign cars but I read the car magazines in the drugstore owned by Foo Won on the corner when he doesn't catch me. Corvettes, it said in one article I read, are a Greatly Underestimated Force to be Reckoned with in the Muscle Car Arena. Of course I don't have a Corvette but Al said if I want one bad enough and work hard enough I can have one someday when I'm old enough to drive. I would like to have a good car for the muscle car arena. I like baseball and my favorite team changes some because it started with the Braves and then went to the Padres and then the Yankees and now I'm back to the Braves but I'm definitely leaning back toward the Padres. I do not like skateboards, or I should say I guess I like them but I don't skateboard anymore because I tried it once without a helmet and hit the concrete so hard I saw flashes of color from one Wednesday to Friday in the next week. I didn't dare to tell Al because she would have taken me to the doctor which she does even if I'm a little sick and not seeing flashes of colors in my head. I like bicycling. I have an old clunker Schwinn five-speed that looks so bad nobody will steal it except that I took it all apart and the bearings and all the internal parts are slick and new. I like Coke, not the kind you snort up your nose like Magdalene did until Al got her into treatment and she has two years and two months straight now but the kind you drink from a bottle and I put peanuts in the bottle and drink the Coke and eat the peanuts. I like Fiji. That's an island country in the South Pacific and I read all about it in a travel magazine at Foo Won's store. I'll go there someday when I am (a) an adult, (b) successful and (c) have a Corvette and maybe (d) married to Melissa which is all part of the list I have for my Life Plan. I don't want to live in Fiji but just visit there after I am certified on scuba gear and can dive, because the diving is supposed to be absolutely stellar there according to the magazine although I always thought stellar meant something to do with the stars. I do not like television but I used to like TV until Al said it was sucking the brain out of me and hit the set in just the right place to kill it with a small hammer we use to unstick the kitchen window when it's hot and we want it open because the air conditioner only cools the living room and doesn't blow into the kitchen and now it doesn't work. The TV I mean. It hisses and pops but there's no picture or sound. Then Al made me go with her to the library and I got dozens of books even though I didn't read much then but do now and twice a week we have literary discussion evenings about books we have both read that week. We never had television discussion evenings twice a week when I watched TV and now I don't like it anymore. TV I mean. And I don't watch it at all even when I'm visiting Waylon who is my best outside friend and who is twelve and who has television and is maybe even a tube head and also does not have television or literary discussion evenings twice a week in his home. I think mostly because Waylon says his folks both work hard and are never really home. But Al works hard too, and is home almost all the time when she isn't working. Excerpted from The Glass Cafe: Or the Stripper and the State; How My Mother Started a War with the System That Made Us Kind of Rich and a Little Bit Famous by Gary Paulsen 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.