Friday, September 09, 2011

Guy Friday-- Things I Don't Understand

There are many guy things I just don't get. Like football, golf, and hunting. Reading books for boys is sometimes more a test of will. Last night, I really wanted to read The Friendship Doll or 13 Gifts, but I took one for the (opposing?) team, and read the following:

Greenwald, Tommy. Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading.
Charlie Joe is proud of the fact that he's never read a book all the way through. He knows how to convince teachers that he has, and has an arrangement with one of his friends to trade book information for ice cream sandwiches. He's got the system down: e.g. if parents say "read three chapters", they can be one or two page chapters. When projects loom and his plans fall apart due to the vagaries of middle school alliances and relationships, Charlie Joe may be forced to do some actual reading.
Strengths: Charlie Joe never starts to LOVE to read. Hooray! Mr. Greenwald clearly road tested this book on actual boys, so this clever book rings true. The realignments in romances, and the descriptions of the girls Charlie Joe likes are really brilliant, and I adored this tip on page 123: " If you have to read, read about girls. It helps you understand them better." Validation from an actual boy for Boys Read Pink Month. I'll see if Mr. Greenwald will sponsor us! This was a great book, although a bit long for truly reluctant readers. Will it trick them? Hmmm.
Weaknesses: I didn't buy the student testimonies at Charlie Joe's Position Paper. Or the Position Paper format. I also had problems with the speech at the dance. This is one of my pet peeves, like hall monitors, selling things at school. It's nowhere in my experience and I find it hard to believe it exists anywhere.

Kloepfer, John. The Zombie Chasers.
Students often fail to listen to announcements, but put "zombie apocalypse" on, and 25 boys will come asking for the book! I was very leery of this book for middle schoolers, because the illustrations make it look as if it falls on the elementary side of the Pilkey Line, but it doesn't. My boys want scary zombie books like Z or The Enemy, and have to be convinced to stick with The Vampire's Photograph, but this will work. Zack, Rice and Madison are having a nice birthday celebration when things start to go wrong. Zack's sister Zoe becomes a zombie, and pretty soon most of their town is lurching along, looking for brains to eat. Most of the action concerns escaping the zombies, whether by jumping down a clothes chute into dirty underwear or trying to drive a car. The three try a couple of antidote to try to stop the infection, but they are back in Undead Ahead and the soon-to-be-released Sludgement Day.

Strengths: There's plenty of gross-out humor and zombie descriptions, but I don't agree with the reviews that think this is funny.
Weaknesses: Twinkles. Really? Turn a cute little dog into a zombie? I was rubbing Sylvie's tummy and she did not approve!

Bragg, Georgia. How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous.
In great and gruesome detail, we learn Why We Love Antibiotics. King Tut died of malaria and an infected leg, Queen Elizabeth I had bursting pustules in her throat, and Henry the 8th's corpse apparently burst inside the coffin and leaked out. Ewwwww. While the gross-out moments on this are plentiful, the historical information is really quite good.
Strengths: The bibliography shows how much research went into this. What a great book for history teachers to have to read aloud to the class! This was much better than Dreadful Fates.
Weaknesses: Don't try to read before dinner!

Angleberger, Tom. Darth Paper Strikes Back.
Dwight is in trouble again for origami related mischief. This time, the school thinks he is unbalanced enough that they want to send him to the Correctional and Remedial Educational Facility. Tommy and Kellen use their investigative skills to put together a plan to convince the principal that Dwight is not the threat that he seems.
Strengths: Mr. Angleberger really understands middle school-- the way that allegiances change, the difficulties of romance combined with what your friends will think, the quirky things that middle school students think is a good idea at the time. Combine this with an origami Darth Vader-- hot stuff. Cannot keep either this book or The Origami Yoda on the shelf! This has already been sent over from the public library at least once since my copy just came in yesterday.
Weaknesses: Paper over board cover. Argh! Can we say Lemony Snicket? With the wear and tear these get, they should be in a Gibraltar Bound from the 1960s! (Not the current Random House incarnation, which is just slightly better paper over boards.

Knight, M.J. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Ultimate Guide.
Complete with trading cards, this guide is heavily illustrated by Antonio Caparo and offers an overview of the characters as well as the events of the Percy Jackson books. With a total of about 30 Percy Jackson copies, I had to buy this in the same way that I had to buy The Beatrice Letters (2006-- fell apart yesterday). The biggest problem with the format is the flap on the cover (look closely), which will make it hard to shelve and probably fall off within three years.

I will just go look at my copy of The Black Pearl that was here when the building opened in 1969 and reassure myself that I do spend the public's money wisely. This will get read a LOT, so it's okay.

Whew. If you aren't tired of guy books yet, head over to The Story Snoops for some more Gauntlet Flinging. They have some awesome lists of books for all types of readers.


  1. Thanks, Ms. Yingling! I'm always looking for good guy reads for my customers at the bookstore. I've read DARTH PAPER but not the others.

    Another one I recommend is MY LIFE AS A BOOK by Janet Tashjian. Like Charlie Jackson, Derek is a reluctant reader and Tashjian wisely has him still not liking reading much by the end.

  2. I love your reviews, Ms. Yingling. You sure read a lot!