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Butt Sandwich & Tree

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About The Book

From New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Wesley King comes a tender and grounded middle grade mystery about brothers, basketball, and a young boy on the autism spectrum.

Eleven-year-old Green loves his devoted older brother, Cedar, a popular basketball star, but that doesn’t mean he wants to follow in his footsteps. He doesn’t really care about sports or making friends. Still, eventually Green caves to pressure to try out for the basketball team. He may be tall like Cedar, but he’s nowhere near as skilled.

And when a confrontation with the coach spurs Green to flee the court, his flight coincides with a priceless necklace going missing—making him the number one suspect. To clear Green’s name, the two brothers team up to find the necklace, and along the way, they learn to appreciate their differences…and the things that bring them together.

Excerpt

Chapter 1: Green CHAPTER 1 GREEN
Three days earlier…

I still can’t believe they went with Asperger.

Think about it. You have a bunch of kids with social issues and you name them after some dude named Hans Asperger? None of the other scientists sounded his last name out? Nobody thought, Wait a second… Ps kind of sound like Bs and also are we cool with butts?

And get this: Hans Asperger wasn’t even the first one to study the whole autism spectrum thing. Mom read that a supersmart Russian lady named Grunya Sukhareva was on the case in the 1920s. I could have been a Grunyan! That would have been so cool.

But no. I’m an Asperger. A born-and-raised butt sandwich.

It gets worse, if you can believe it. My mom’s name is Ashley. My dad’s name… John. Ashley and John Bennett: the two most boring names in the entire history of humankind. And they are actually pretty boring people except for one teeny, tiny exception: the names of their children.

My older brother’s name is Cedar. My name? Green.

Think about the poor doctor. And here is your little baby… oops, they must have written down the color of his face when he came out instead. Oh, that’s his name? How… unique.

Yep. My parents had two moments of madness, and they both turned into birth certificates.

“Green!” Cedar shouts from outside the door. “You ready?”

“Coming!”

P.S. I am in the bathroom, but don’t worry, I’m just brushing my teeth.

I think about changing my name all the time. But Mom says I have to be eighteen, so I’ve still got seven more years before I can legally un-Green myself.

How do you like Gale? It’s like the sound the wind makes: Gaaaaaaaaaaaale.

“Green!”

Cedar pokes his head into the bathroom, scowling. My brother is two years older than me, but he looks way older. His chestnut hair is always perfectly gelled into messy spikes and he wears Dockers and a leather jacket like my dad, who is forty-one. So.

He also got his first zit last week, which he is really sad about.

Cedar says I look like an eleven-year-old in “all the ways you can.” I’m gangly and knobby and my dirty-blond hair droops over my ears and freckled forehead like a mop. It also seems to want to grow into a mullet and apparently that’s not cool, so I have to get the back trimmed all the time.

Cedar tells me what’s cool. He said I can either have a party in the front and the back or no parties at all. I have no idea what that means, but he was passionate.

Truthfully, I ignore ninety-nine percent of his fashion advice, which is why I wear socks and Crocs to school. I think comfort should play a prominent role in our footwear choices.

Cedar deeply despises my Croc-socks.

“C’mon, Green,” he says, checking his phone. “We are not going to be late today.”

Today is kind of a big deal (read: huge), but also not until after class so I’m not sure why punctuality matters. But that reminds me of the insanity I agreed to and now my stomach hurts.

“I don’t think I can do it,” I gurgle through some green spearmint toothpaste.

Peppermint makes me sneeze. Honestly. One piece of peppermint gum and achoo! So does the glare of the sun. Once I had peppermint gum on a sunny day and I swear I almost died.

Cedar frowns. “You’re almost done now, just spit it out—”

“No,” I cut in, though I do spit out the toothpaste. “The… you know.”

“Oh.” He claps my right shoulder. Cedar does that, like, forty-five times a day. Dad told me it’s what guys do instead of hugging, but I don’t see the correlation. “Just play it by ear. I told you: No pressure whatsoever.”

Cedar says that after several weeks of intense daily pressuring, of course. Then he checks his hair—he always finds at least one spike that needs adjusting, though I can never tell the difference—and starts for the stairs.

“Cedar?” I call after him.

“What?”

“Do you think I should gel my hair today?”

Cedar smiles. “Nah. Go au naturale, little bro. It’s your style.”

“Right.”

I look in the mirror and take a deep breath. My dad is excited. My mom is freaked out. I am freaked-out-excited. I don’t like change as a general rule. But I already agreed, and Cedar is, like, extra excited, and really, how bad can it be? Cedar plays basketball and he’s as happy as a clam.

I wonder if clams are actually happy. I guess they get to relax a lot but people also eat them, so…

“Green!”

“Yeah! Coming.”

I hurry downstairs and get my Crocs on. It takes three seconds because no laces.

Cedar just shakes his head.

“Do you like your name?” I ask him.

I ask him this question every few months to see if he’s changed his mind. We have a bit of a routine.

“Could be worse,” he says, as always.

“Like what?”

“Birch. Crabapple. California Redwood. Never mind the Butt Plant.”

I laugh as he locks the front door behind us. Mom and Dad both work really early, so we get ready for school ourselves. We usually come home to an empty house, too, so I guess we’re officially latchkey kids.

I zip my jacket right to the top. It’s late September in the suburbs of Toronto, and it’s starting to feel cool in the mornings.

“Is Butt Plant a thing?” I ask skeptically.

“It’s a thing. It actually looks like a butt. And I like Green, too, by the way.”

I shake my head. “It’s literally the color of vomit.”

“It’s perfect! Cedar and Green. We could have been Pine and Pink, man. Or Butt Plant and Blue! That would have been rough. We are lucky. We’re like a coniferous superteam.”

“Lucky?” I ask. “We’re already Butt Sandwich and Tree.”

Cedar snorts. “For the last time, only you refer to yourself as Butt Sandwich.”

“For now,” I say darkly, then kick through a pile of fallen leaves on the sidewalk. “What if I suck today, Cedar?”

“You won’t,” Cedar says, slinging his arm around my shoulders. “Trust me, bro. It’s going to be a good day.”

“Green?”

“Yes?” I say quietly.

It’s my not-in-my-own-house voice. I also have a not-in-my-own-house brain. It’s like, Oh, I am in my room with Cedar so I can tell a joke and laugh at stuff. But then I am in the classroom with not-Cedar so I’ll just stare straight ahead and not tell jokes because maybe other people don’t like… stuff.

Yeah. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.

P.S. If you don’t know much about Asperger’s syndrome, don’t worry. Neither do I. It’s super confusing. Even our family doctor, Dr. Lee, couldn’t figure it out at first. He sent me to a bunch of child psychiatrists when I was younger. It was autism for a while and then, “Maybe he’s just shy,” but, “Hmm, why does he eat the same sandwich every day and not speak to anyone?” and then, “Wait… he’s one of those unfortunately named Asperger kids!”

And then lo and behold: Everything made sense.

Everything became a symptom.

Okay. So I still eat the same sandwich. But hear me out: White bread, a light smear of mayonnaise, and a single slice of processed cheddar cheese is the peak of food. No random spices in there waiting to attack my stomach.

Like star anise. It legitimately looks like poison.

And sure, I didn’t talk until I was six. But what was I going to talk about? Politics? The meaning of life?

Dr. Lee always mentions my “rigid routines” too. But I just do the things I like. Now you want me to hit the randomizer button every three days? And today we get: star anise sandwiches, rubber boots, and class socialite.

Even if I survived the spices… can you imagine the foot sweat? No thanks.

Mom is always like, “It’s no big deal, Green… you just have a neurological disorder.” But here’s the thing: I’m actually more ordered than most people, so shouldn’t I have a neurological superorder? Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Bennett: Your son has a superorder! You better go buy some mayo.

Oh, I also roll a bouncy ball around my left palm when I get nervous, but bouncy balls are awesome so I’m good with that one.

There are a couple of things I would change, I guess. I have a hard time talking to other people, even teachers, which makes school tough sometimes. Not the actual schoolwork; I just have a hard time taking direction or participating in class. Making friends is a no-go. I also space out a lot. Like… once or twice in an hour.

All together it’s enough that Mom still wanted me to go see an actual Asperger’s syndrome specialist, and Dr. Lee finally referred me to Dr. Shondez. She’s one of the leading experts in the world on Asperger’s syndrome, and Mom had to book my appointment, like, a year in advance.

It’s less than two weeks away now, and I am super nervous.

Dr. Lee has been suggesting to my parents for a while that I take medication to help me focus, but Mom and Dad weren’t sure that was necessary, and I didn’t really want to take it either. He also said I might benefit from a private school with smaller classes… which would mean going to a different school than Cedar, who would never agree to leave his beloved Palmerston Panthers. Even if he wanted to, Mom and Dad told me they couldn’t afford two private school tuitions.

Mom, Dad, and I actually visited a private school called Trafalgar a couple of months ago—without telling Cedar. It was really nice and all, but after the tour, I told them I wanted to stay at Palmerston with Cedar. They said it was my call… with one condition: If Dr. Shondez thought some changes would be good for me, they wanted to “revisit” the discussion. Including the medications.

I really don’t want to take pills. I’m happy with myself, even if no one else seems to be.

Oh shoot. Mrs. Strachan is looking at me.

Well, down at me. She looms. She’s really tall, with bright red hair like a campfire, and she smells like maple syrup for some reason. Maybe she eats pancakes every morning. If I was going to go wild one day and eat something else, it would totally be pancakes. They’re the plain cheese sandwich of breakfast.

Still looking. What do I do?

This is when my old teacher’s assistant would whisper some sage advice like, “Remember when I told you too much yawning can be offensive?” But I’m in sixth grade now and I don’t have a TA anymore… either because I am “functional” or because there were budget cuts. Mom thinks it was the second one.

Last year the school decided I didn’t need an Individualized Education Plan anymore, either, because I was testing so high. Even my TA said I was ready to fully reintegrate into classes without her. That all sounded like good news to me, and Dad agreed, but Mom was worried it was too soon.

She liked when I had a TA, but I think she also pictured a secret agent with glasses on who would billy club kids who teased me.

Here’s the thing: Most kids don’t really tease me. They just kind of move around me. I guess for one I’m pretty tall, and two I don’t talk much (like a ninja) so it just makes sense to avoid me.

There are exceptions, of course. Like, S’up, dude, where’s your bro at? Or, What’s your last name, Bay Packers?

I still have no idea what Carl Freburg was talking about, but he thought it was super funny. And then there’s the dreaded Allison Gaisson, of course. She sits right behind me and says something mean, like, every five minutes. Whoever makes the annual class lists clearly has a personal vendetta against me, because we’ve been in the same math class two years in a row.

“Are you feeling all right, Green?” Mrs. Strachan asks from, like, nine stories up.

Finally… a hint! I try to make the connection. We’re doing math and I do have my math book open so that checks out. Am I drooling? No, my mouth is dry. Shoot… I probably shouldn’t have poked it like that. What does she mean? I’m wearing pants. They’re even khakis… it’s my fancy day.

Why can’t she be specific? I like specifics. Green, why are you frothing at the mouth?

“… Yes…,” I say, because I am truly stumped.

I slip the bouncy ball out of my pocket and roll it around in my left palm.

“You were staring out the window for the last twenty minutes.”

Ohhhhh. That makes sense. I did see three V formations of migrating geese.

“Sorry.”

“Are you bored?” she asks.

“Yes.”

Oh, by the way… I stink at lying. Cedar says it’s my kryptonite.

Mrs. Strachan clears her throat. I do know what that means. It means she would yell at someone else, but this is Green the special quiet boy so she’ll just yell inside her throat instead.

“Well, we do have homework for later, and I need to make sure you understand it—”

“I already did mine.”

She frowns. “We’re doing the questions on page seventy-seven as well.”

“I did those too to be safe. I have practice tonight, so I wanted to plan ahead.”

Mrs. Strachan stares at me for a moment. Her equally campfire-colored eyebrows are almost touching. If I had to guess, I would say she is either confused or has a migraine. “For…”

“Basketball.”

Now the other kids are looking at me too. I can hear Allison muttering something behind me. I can’t make it out, but I’m sure it’s insulting. Lyesha is mouthing “Basketball?” to Mel.

I squeeze the bouncy ball even tighter.

“You’re… on the basketball team?” Mrs. Strachan says, as if struggling to find the words.

“Well, no. It’s a… tryout.”

Klieba Zanowski sits to my immediate right, and he gives me a strange look too. But he doesn’t talk to anybody either, so he just goes back to his math work. I like Klieba.

Mrs. Strachan smiles and blinks a lot. It’s like she might… cry? “Good for you, Green.”

Then she taps my desk with her index finger and almost skips back to the whiteboard. I didn’t even get in trouble. So… I guess I can stare at geese again because I might go bounce a big orange ball later? No. I get it.

It’s me. Green the Butt Sandwich is going to try to play sports like a real boy.

It’s all because of Cedar. He’s the star player, and I’m pretty tall too, so Coach Nelson asked me to come try out for the varsity team… even though I’m only in sixth grade and should technically be trying out with the JVs. And even though I have never played organized basketball period.

I’m about ninety-nine-point-nine percent sure it’s because Cedar begged him to do it, but Coach really did seem sincere last week. He claimed it would be good for me. “Sports build social skills, son.”

I don’t know if that’s true, but hey, I can bounce things. Cedar and I throw bouncy balls around on my driveway all the time. We have this game where we throw a ball straight up in the air and try to catch it on the first bounce. My driveway is all cracked and bumpy, so it’s way harder than it sounds.

It’s another reason I always keep one in my pocket… for emergency bouncing opportunities. Like if we suddenly got access to an airport tarmac or a mall parking lot or something. Can you imagine the bounces?

But nobody else likes rubber balls apparently, so I have basketball sneakers in my backpack.

Lyesha turns in her chair and leans toward me. “That’s so cool, Green.”

I manage to smile even though my cheeks are possibly on fire. Lyesha is not in my talking circle… and yet she just talked to me. And she was really nice. Maybe basketball is good for social skills.

I try to imagine some weird future where I’m like Cedar. I can almost hear the announcer: Starting at, you know, one of the positions, Green Thomas Bennett, the star of the Palmerston Panthers, whose name will eventually be Gale, so everyone shout, Gaaaaaaaaaaale.

It seems stressful, but I really do like the sound of that name.

Maybe this will be a good day.

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide

Butt Sandwich & Tree

By Wesley King

About the Book

When Coach Nelson’s necklace goes missing, it’s only a matter of time before the whole school suspects Green. He’s the weirdo. The freak. The kid with Asperger’s. The truth is, Green wasn’t sure he even wanted to try out for the basketball team. He only did it to make his big brother, Cedar, happy—and to spend more time with him. To say the tryout didn’t go well is an understatement, and now the necklace is missing. Coach is furious, and everyone thinks Green stole it. Except Cedar. What choice do the brothers have but to team up to find out the truth?

Discussion Questions

1. Before starting, consider the title: Butt Sandwich & Tree. Does it give you any clues to what the book is about? Did you have any idea or prediction about what would happen in the story? After you finish reading the book, go back and take a look at the cover. What is depicted there that also gives clues to what’s important in the story? How often does the title, or the cover art, influence whether you’ll want to read a book? What do you think about the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”?

2. Before reading this book, what did you know about Asperger’s Syndrome? Green learns from Dr. Shondez that the name “Asperger’s” is no longer being used and that most specialists now use a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Explain why the name is being changed. Who does Dr. Shondez say is partly responsible for the change?

3. Green says that autism means “isolated self” (Chapter five). How does the author’s depiction of Green express this sense of isolation? What else did you learn about autism from this book? Which other books, if any, have you read that feature neurodivergent characters?

4. Green dislikes his own name as much as he dislikes “ass-burger” or “butt sandwich,” as he calls his Asperger’s. He has several ideas for a new name for himself. Have you ever wanted to change your name? Why? What would you change your name to if you could? What are some reasons kids or adults might want to change their name?

5. The book’s prologue foreshadows the central event in the main story. What did you think when you first read the prologue? What were some of the prologue’s clues that could help readers solve the crime before the brothers do?

6. The author chose to tell this story using two different points of view by writing alternating chapters using the first-person voices of Green and Cedar. What did you think of this perspective technique? Describe the differences between the brothers’ POVs. Have you read other books narrated in more than one voice? How did each perspective make you feel about Cedar and Green? Did you identify with one more than the other? If so, explain which POV you related to more and why.

7. Did the book’s theme of “older brother protecting younger brother” seem familiar to you? How is this sibling dynamic impacted by Green’s autism? On the playground at recess, Cedar says, “I do my routine check on Green” (Chapter two). Do you have a sibling that you feel needs watching over? Or are you the sibling that’s being watched over?

8. Green says: “Most kids don’t really tease me. They just kind of move around me” (Chapter one). Discuss some of the ways that Green is different, ways that might cause other kids to avoid him. Which of his unique behaviors are associated with autism?

9. When Green falls under suspicion, Cedar realizes, “It’s like shy turned into thief turned into freak all within a few days” (Chapter twenty). How do you think gossip and innuendo travel through a clique, school, or community? Why do you think that people are so quick to point fingers at people who are different? Why are people eager to spread bad news and suspicions?

10. According to Green, “Everyone assumes I’m the thief. Deep down, they’d always expected I’d do something wrong” (Chapter eleven). How would it feel to have others prejudge you in this way? Their mom feels Green is bullied by both students and staff. Do you agree with her? In the scene where Coach comes to the brothers’ home, why does he accuse Green but not Cedar? What do you think is the best thing to do if you witness a kid being bullied by someone, either another student or an adult?

11. Cedar is desperate to have a video go viral. Do you understand this desire? What would you recommend Cedar try in order to produce a viral video? Why is social media recognition important to kids? When Cedar is grounded and Mom takes away his phone, he feels that he is “officially disconnected from the world” (Chapter twelve). Why do you think this is or is not a fair punishment for Cedar?

12. Cedar doesn’t think it’s fair that he must adhere to a number of rules at home that Green doesn’t. He also thinks it’s unfair when Mom keeps Green home from school and he gets to play video games all day. Why do you think their mom treats Cedar and Green differently? Is it fair that Mom tells Cedar, “‘If something happens to Green . . . it’s on you’”? (Chapter four)

13. Green’s classmate Allison, who has always been mean to him, finally admits that she was jealous of him. Have you ever been jealous of someone else? Do you agree with Cedar, who assures Green that everyone does weird stuff?

14. For Cedar, “Basketball led straight to popularity” (Chapter six). Why does he believe that the same thing will happen for Green? Why is it that being good at sports does often seem to make kids popular? How do you feel about Green trying out for the basketball team? Did you think he was going to make the team?

15. When the team plays a competitive scrimmage game, Green thinks: “I mean, who cares how many [points] the other team gets? When Cedar and I play we cheer when the other person scores. It just seems like a friendlier system” (Chapter seven). Why do you think he feels this way? What are some ways teams could be a little friendlier during practices, scrimmages, and games?

16. When Cedar’s best friend, Mo, tells him that Green is weird, it starts a big fight between the two. If one of your friends said something rude or bad about a member of your family, would you get upset? What about if a parent or sibling said something bad about a friend? Friends or family—cite examples from the novel that showed which Cedar thought was more important. Green comments that “Cedar always says you need more people in your life than just family. I disagree” (Chapter seventeen). Which brother do you agree with, and why?

17. When the brothers are discussing their Oma, Cedar wants to know why Green didn’t cry when she died. Green tells him, “‘I guess I can just focus on myself when I need to. And if something is too big, I can focus on something small. I can make that more important’” (Chapter twenty-four). Discuss how a skill like that might be helpful.

Extension Activities

Writing

1. Choose one of these two statements from the book and write an essay agreeing or disagreeing with it. Share your reasons and give examples that support your response.

- “Kids should always be seen for who they are as individuals first.”

- “A little adversity is a good thing . . . it makes us stronger.”

2. Write a shooting script for the perfect viral video for Cedar to make.

3. Green tells Cedar that he knows he could do anything, but “‘I don’t want to. I like my routines. I like doing the stuff I already do’” (Chapter thirty-one). Write an essay about the difference between what you could do and what you want or need to do. It can be a specific activity, or it can be a more general essay about your life.

4. Identify an important theme of the book, and write an essay exploring how setting, character, and plot support this theme. (Examples: hope, friendship, family, differences.)

Research

1. Using your library and trusted internet sources, research and write a report about one of these subjects:

- Hans Asperger

- Grunya Sukhareva

​ - Autism spectrum disorder

- Fictional child detectives

Guide written by Bobbie Combs, a consultant at We Love Children's Books.

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

About The Author

Photo courtesy of the author

Wesley King is the author of over a dozen novels for young readers. His debut, OCDaniel, is an Edgar Award winner, a Canada Silver Birch Award winner, a Bank Street Best Book of the Year, and received a starred review from Booklist. The companion novel, Sara and the Search for Normal, received a starred review from School Library Journal and was the recipient of the Violet Downey Book Award and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award. King has also written The Incredible Space Raiders from Space!A World BelowButt Sandwich & TreeBenny on the Case, and Kobe Bryant’s New York Times bestselling Wizenard series. He lives in Newfoundland.

Why We Love It

“At its heart, this is a brother book, a sports book, and a realistic look at a kid on the Autism spectrum and the family who loves him.”

—Catherine L., Editor, on Butt Sandwich & Tree

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (August 23, 2022)
  • Length: 272 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781665902618
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12
  • Lexile ® 600L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®
  • Fountas & Pinnell™ W These books have been officially leveled by using the F&P Text Level Gradient™ Leveling System

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Awards and Honors

  • Forest of Reading Silver Birch Fiction Finalist
  • Dolly Gray Children's Literature Award
  • Canadian Children's Book Centre Violet Downey Book Award Finalist

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