Rylander, Chris. The Fourth Stall.
Mac has a good system going. He has access to a little used restroom in his school where he can meet with students who need a service that he and his friend Vince can provide. It might be sneaking in to an R-rated movie, finding out information about someone, or in the case of third grader Fred, being kept safe from legendary bully Staples. Hunting Staples down takes a huge amount of Mac and Vince's resources; they were saving money to go to a Cubs' game, but have to pay off a lot of other kids to work on Fred's problem. They also have to call in a lot of favors as the situation worsens. Staples is not only running a betting operation out of Mac's school, but he targets Mac once Mac starts protecting Fred. Things get even worse when Mac finds out that Vince is skimming money from the operation. Is Vince also in cahoots with Staples?
Strengths: This was the very first book I picked up at a recent book look. I thought that everyone else would be sure to grab it! This cover is a vast improvement over the original one I saw, which was a little cartoonish. This will never make it to the shelves. Can all books for middle grade boys have some toilet paper on the front? I liked the friendship between the characters, and there were quite a few snort-out-loud lines. Looking forward to other books by this author.
Weakness: Bit of a slow start, and a tad confusing, with the number of characters and previous jobs that Mac had done. Most readers will not be bothered, but my really reluctant readers may be.
All of the books in my library are due on Friday. There are about 1,000 checked out. I wake up at 3:00 a.m. every morning in a mild panic about this, so it may affect my crankiness and coherency level in the coming days!