Okay, I would have to buy this book if only for Mr. Pierson's interaction with a student who asked Yahoo Answers for a summary of Pierson's The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To. The second thing I liked about this was that it was very much something Surly Teen Boy would like, and even sounded a bit like his work. I was greatly relieved to find that Mr. Pierson is not the same age as Surly Teen Boy, but I am old enough to be his mother. Please note that on a night where I could only read one book, I picked the title with a toilet on the cover, completing my transformation as a reader into a 12 year old boy.
Pierson, D.C. Crap Kingdom.
7 March 2013, Viking Juvenile
E ARC from Netgalley.com, also reviewed at YABC
Tom's life is going okay. He's involved in theater and a cute girl might like him, so when his absent father shows up after one of his plays, he's not thrilled-- especially when his father turns into Gark, a messenger from another world who claims that Tom needs to follow him through a clothes donation dumpster in a K Mart parking lot because he is the "chosen one" who will save the kingdom! Tom isn't impressed with the kingdom-- it has no name, the king doesn't know what Tom is supposed to do, Princess Pira is just nutty, and the main job Tom is supposed to perform is to work in the Rat Snottery collecting... you got it... rat snot. He returns to our world and goes about his daily life. He works on a play, tries to make amends with his mother, and hangs out with his friend Kyle. Eventually, he wishes he had stayed in the kingdom, so he goes back. Once there, he finds out that he has been replaced... by Kyle. Kyle, who has always been better than Tom at everything, gets magic powers. He doesn't have to work in the Rat Snottery. Tom decides that he'll hang out in Crap Kingdom for a while, and learns that this is possible because of a soul swap. When he is in the kingdom, a random soul pilots his body for him, and whoever is piloting him has gotten the attention of Lindsy, who is now his girlfriend. Now Tom is perfectly happy to remain in the real world, making out with his girlfriend, but the person who inhabited his body in the soul swap had much smoother moves than Tom does. He panics and goes back to the Crap Kingdom, where he meets the king of the Ghelm, who claims that Tom is THEIR chosen one. The Ghelm are the sworn enemies of Crap Kingdom. Which side will Tom support? Will Lindsy stay his girlfriend? Which world is the best place for Tom to be?
Strengths: This was a very fresh and singular book. Young Adult in feel (with all that making out with Lindsy), but with nothing objectionable. Understanding and use of fantasy tropes in unexpected ways makes this really funny, as does all the gross or goofy details, like the rusty donation box as a portal, the Rat Snottery, etc. I liked Tom's insecurity about being with Lindsy, and also his love-hate relationship with Tom. The writing is simple but not wooden or inexpert-- it just reads like a very talented 15-year-old wrote it, which has its charm. This may be the book I buy as a Christmas present for my son.
Weaknesses: This wasn't that funny to me; just sort of juvenile. Have to file with books I don't like personally, but which I will enthusiastically recommend.
Perhaps a good rule of thumb for middle grade literature is this: If it is toilet themed, suspend disbelief right away and just go with it.
Rylander, Chris. The Fourth Stall: Part III
5 February 2013, Walden Pond Press
Mac is back, but he and Vince are laying low after their last escapade. It's hard to stay away from their old life, though-- Staples is back and wants their help contacting his sister who is in foster care, and they are contacted by Jimmy Two-Tone, a new kid who wants to take over their business and give them a cut of the profits. Jimmy's doing a great business, but Mac starts to suspect that Jimmy is creating problems so he can make money solving them. Turns out this is the case, and Jimmy has been using students from Thief Valley Elementary to cause the problems, but now he owes them $4,000 and he asks Mac for help after school events are being sabotaged too fast for him to fix. It turns out that Kinko, the mastermind at Thief Valley, is Staples' young sister, but this just makes Mac even more determined to take her down in this great conclusion to a great middle grade trilogy.
Strengths: Oh, the sheer number of things that would never happen in a middle school makes this a series that the boys adore. I can't tell you the number of them that knew the exact date this was coming out and wanted it right away! This was the first thing I picked up at a recent book look, once I realized it was there. Gross jokes, over-the-top villains, adventure and running around-- it has everything. I am so glad that they kept the covers the same-- very striking and attractive.
Weaknesses: I don't personally enjoy this sort of thing because it makes me worry about the amount of money involved, about where the teachers are when kids are being bullied, etc. In some ways, it's a relief to know I haven't completely turned into a twelve-year-old boy!