Sunday, March 11, 2012

Middle Grade Monday-- Mudluscious!

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Whitney Messenger, and there are links to a lot of great middle grade reviews at her blog, Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe.

Paulsen, Gary. Mudshark (2009)
Lyle is known as Mudshark because his speed and agility have been honed by dealing with triplet sisters who have a tendency to make a bee line for dog chewies and electrical outlets. He also has a knack for solving mysteries, and there are a lot of them at his school. Not only is the faculty restroom constantly filled with hazardous materials, but
the chalkboard erasers keep going missing, a gerbil is running loose in the building, and the librarian has a foul-mouthed parrot that may or may not be able to read minds. Can Mudshark single-handedly get things back in control at his school?
Strengths: How did I miss this one? This is the only book that has made me snort through my nose with laughter more than The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I am going to order two copies, and it won't be enough. I read all of the principal's announcement aloud to my daughter, and we laughed until we cried and gasped for breath. It is hysterically funny. Seriously. Every page had something that made me laugh.

I must also thank Mr. Paulsen for Ms. Underdorf, the "wonderfully unhinged" librarian, who champions the plight of school libraries everywhere with quotes such as these: "It makes me crazy, but the library somehow always comes in last. I mean, really, is it necessary to have an Olympic-size curling rink before the library gets anything? Does the library have to fight for every penny?" (page 73) Since the library budget ten years ago was $12,ooo and it has been reduced to about $4,000 before it was cut off altogether due to district woes, this was apt and appreciated.
Weaknesses: I need an entire Mudshark series! Right this minute! And I must admit that both the title and the cover art are probably what lead me not to pick this up. The same illustrator did Masters of Disaster, and the cover art has not hurt the circulation of that title, but I vastly prefer the style of Liar, Liar and Flat Broke.

Swan, Bill.
Mud Run.
James Lorimer and Co., Toronto, 2003
Matt is not happy that his family has moved to a new town right before school starts, especially when he arrives too late to register for hockey. He shows up to investigate the school running club, and while he isn't happy with the hubristic, obnoxious boys who also come, he likes the coach's attitude and decides to join. The group starts out strong, but gets smaller as the training intensifies. Oddly, there are no regular races other than an all school race, but all of the runners are gearing up for the district championships Ganaraska. Matt is besieged by vague problems at home and at school, and right before the big race he is suspended for two days for climbing on the roof of the school. He has done this to save another runner who was dared to climb up and then got scared and stuck; eventually, the other boy comes clean and both are allowed to run. However, another runner is injured in a stupid accident right before the meet, which is a rainy, cold and muddy mess. The runners persevere, and take great joy not only in their victory, but in running itself.
Strengths: There are very few books about running as a sport, and this was a good introduction to this Lorimer series, which has about 65 books on a variety of sports. I was not able to read one before I ordered them, but this and several other titles will circulate well with my boys who only want short sports books. (This was 129 pages.)
Weaknesses: Unattractive cover. I am a great advocate of stock photos if there isn't a lot of money to spend on attractive art. The set up of the team was so different from the US cross-country set up that it might be slightly confusing. Matt was not particularly likable.


  1. Mudshark sounds like a fun book my daughter and I would have enjoyed reading when she was younger. Thanks for sharing about it.

  2. I agree 100% on Mudshark! I NEED more of these stories, I could really use a laugh...however, I will just have to settle for the third book in the Liar Liar series, coming out in a few months. Crushed I think it is? or something like that..

  3. Haven't read this yet, but I love it when kids have a knack for solving mysteries!

    And any story that makes you snort through the nose is a winner in my book (I ADORE Best Christmas Pagent Ever!).

  4. Anonymous1:28 PM EDT

    i could use a good 'snort through my nose' with laughter book. thank for the recommendations!


  5. My newphew's birthday is coming up and I think I've just found him the perfect gift (Mudshark). Thanks!

  6. It's great to hear about funny books - kids really do love them!