Friday, May 25, 2012

Riley Mack and Other Known Trouble Makers

Grabenstein, Chris. Riley Mack and Other Known Trouble Makers.
10 April 2012, HarperCollins

 Riley's father is serving in Afghanistan, and his mother is working in a local bank. Riley's a good kid, but when his father first shipped out, he made the mistake of trying to steal an ice cream cake by putting it down the front of his pants, and now the police chief has it out for him. To make matters worse, the chief's son, Gavin, is a major bully who is stealing things from 5th graders and his Grandma Brown is hawking them at the local flea market! Riley has a good group of friends who help him keep kids safe from Gavin, including Briana, who has hippie parents and likes to dress up and act out roles; Jamal, who is very smart;Jake, a tech geek; and  Mongo, who is very big and whose family has just gotten an expensive goldendoodle named Noodle. When the kids figure out that Nick from Pizza Palace stole the dog and that Grandma Brown is running a puppy mill, they work to rescue the dogs. Things get complicated when the manager of the bank where Riley's mother works loses money gambling, steals it from a widowed bank customer and tries to frame Ms. Mack for the theft. The kids try to break into the bank to get evidence at the same time two criminals are trying to rob the safe. Can they clear Riley's mother's name, save the dogs AND bring down Chief Brown?
Strengths: I really liked The Crossroads  series, and Grabenstein certainly writes engaging prose. Riley is a fun character, and I think that middle grade students will like this book, especially since dog books are asked for more and more.
Weaknesses: All objections are on a personal level. Students will like this. While this was a quick read, I didn't care for it as much as Grabenstein's other books. It included over-the-top bullying, which I always dislike, and dog napping, which has become a cliche in children's literature. The characters were rather stock, and the inclusion of hippie parents is another thing I routinely dislike. Students will probably not notice these things, but I expected something more original from this author.

It's a new record! I only have TWO books that haven't been turned in or paid for. Five that walked away.

Have I said lately that my students and staff are beyond AWESOME! I think the numbers show that my school has a lot of respect for books.

Ms. Reader Pants had a list of her most circulated books over at her blog, and I thought it was interesting. When looking at this list, notice that there are two entries for Stormbreaker; this is because I have both hardcover and paperback versions. In all, The Hunger Games circulated 174 times, but Stormbreaker went out 188! Not bad at all for a ten year old title! And you can certainly tell that we love us some Rick Riordan, with six of the 20 being by him.

Here at Blendon, the top 20 titles were
  1. The Hunger Games
  2. Catching fire
  3. Stormbreaker 
  4. Mockingjay
  5. Twilight 
  6. The lost hero 
  7. 13 little blue envelopes 
  8. Devil's footsteps
  9. The sea of monsters
  10. Diary of a wimpy kid : the ugly truth
  11. The son of Neptune 
  12. The throne of fire 
  13. The red pyramid
  14. Alex Rider Adventure: Scorpia rising
  15. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  16. The Titan's curse
  17. The chronicles of Vladimir Tod : eighth grade bites 
  18. Stormbreaker 
  19. The Burning Bridge


  1. Vladimir Tod was big at my school last year, but I did not talk it up as much this year. Rick Riordan and Jeff Kinney books are always enormous, no matter when they were published! It's fun to compare lists!

  2. I think this is very interesting, too!

  3. Anonymous6:25 PM EDT

    Isn't it interesting to look at these lists? You should get an award for having only TWO missing books. That's gotta be a record of some sort! When does vacation start? Hope you have a fab summer!