Tamera Ann Simpson is, in a word, grumpy--the fifth grader doesn't get along with anyone, especially the annoying Douglas McGinty, or as she calls him, "Muscle Man." What sets Tammy's teeth on edge is the boy's tendency to tell whoppers about himself. For instance, who would believe that a 10-year-old is training for the 1972 Olympics? When the whoppers get out of this world, Tammy decides that enough is enough.
In Nan Marino's Neil Armstrong is My Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me, it's the summer of 1969 in Tammy's little town on the outskirts of New York City, a typical slice of American culture. Tammy's neighbor, Mr. Grabowsky, is lawn-obsessive; Mr. Pizzarelli, the police officer, loves to sing at barbeques; one of her classmates is driven to collect Barbie dolls; and everyone is talking about the moon landing. Yet all of these things are small change to Tammy, who has decided that the kid who took her best friend's place at a local foster home is her worst enemy.
Readers soon realize that while Tammy has her share of problems, none of them are caused by the mindlessly cheerful Muscle Man. It will take tragedy and a surprising revelation for Tammy to see the light--moonlight, that is. Neil Armstrong is my Uncle is a lovingly portrayed look at life during a memorable time in American history; it deserves to be on your child's summer reading list.
Copyright 2009 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Spring
Ten-year-old Tammy is left lonely--and angry--when best friend Kebsie, a foster child, suddenly moves away. Scrawny Douglas McGinty, the new whopper-telling foster kid Tammy dubs "Muscle Man," becomes the object of her ire. This poignant story, set against a well-realized backdrop of the Vietnam War and the first moon walk, looks at how loss can both isolate people and bring them together. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2009 April #1
It's the summer of 1969, when astronauts land on the moon, and Tamara Ann Simpson is not having a good time. Foster child and best friend Kebsie has suddenly moved away and now Douglas McGinty is in her spot with Mrs. Kutchner. Tammy dubs him "Muscle Man" after one outrageous lie, determined to give him his comeuppance in front of the whole gang. Fierce and plaintive, Tammy's voice crackles with originality and yet is completely childlike. The '60s setting comes to life with sharply honed details like kickball games, ice-cream trucks, soap operas, references to "the man" and the loss of life to the Vietnamese war. The authenticity of the time and the voice combine with a poignant plot to reveal a depth unusual in such a straightforward first-person narrative. Showing a neighborhood still webbed together by typical daily contact, the characters are individually distinct and real. Also real is the fact that Tammy's tenacity is never fully appreciated, even as she softens her principles and becomes slightly more understanding than seemed possible in the beginning. (Historical fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Media Connection Reviews 2009 October
Nan Marino has written an impressive first novel in this book which unfolds during the summer of 1969.áThe main character is 10-year-old Tamara Simpson who is very angry and upset by Muscle Man McGinty, a new kid in her neighborhood.áEvery time Muscle Man tells a whopper Tamara gets angry.áBut she is really angry because Muscle Man, a foster child, has moved into the room formerly occupied by her best friend who left without a chance to say good-bye. Tamara is a lonely child with a mother who would rather watch television than pay attention to her.áMcGinty is also a lonely child whose parents were killed in a car crash. When Muscle Man challenges the neighborhood kids to a game of kickball against just him, Tamara thinks finally she will be vindicated and the other kids will see what a liar McGinty really is.áAll Muscle Man wants is to be TamaraÆs friend but it takes Neil ArmstrongÆs walk on the moon to help these two young people begin their friendship journey. Recommended. Audrey I ene Daigneault, Library Media Specialist, West Side Middle School, Groton, Connecticutá ¬ 2009 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews
It's July 1969 and while the attention of everyone else in her Long Island neighborhood is on the impending moonwalk, Tamara Ann Simpson's focus is the black hole created by the sudden departure of her best friend, Kebsie, a foster child who lived across the street. She directs her considerable anger at Douglas McGinty, the new foster kid, whom she ironically dubs "Muscle Man." In her self-absorbed grief, Tammy fails to see that the whoppers Douglas tells-he's training for the 1972 Olympics, he's sung on Broadway-are his way of coping with a major loss of his own. "Muscle Man McGinty is a squirrelly runt, a lying snake, and a pitiful excuse for a ten-year old," Tammy's narration begins. "The problem is.... only I can see him for what he really is." Indeed, among the well-realized cast of scruffy neighborhood pals, no one joins Tammy's campaign to unmask Muscle Man as a phony. But author Marino, in her debut, pulls off the neat trick of having created a sullen, feisty protagonist who is worthy of redemption. Ages 8-12. (May) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2009 June
Gr 4-6--Tammy is alone. No one else on her block sees through the lies 10-year-old Muscle Man McGinty, a foster child, tells them, her best friend moved away without saying a word, her brother left for college, and his best friend was sent to Vietnam. When Muscle Man declares he can single-handedly beat the entire neighborhood in kickball, Tammy looks forward to trouncing him unmercifully. But the ground keeps shifting under her feet, and it's only when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the Moon that anything begins making sense again. Set in the summer of 1969, Marino's first novel moves with a sometimes-humorous, conflict-driven plot. Some of the characterizations aren't particularly original--tomboyish Tammy can't stand her bossy--girly neighbor while her hardworking, tie-wearing father can't be in the same room with budding-hippie Tim. Still, Marino paints a detailed portrait of the seeming gulf that surrounds a person after loss and the surprising companionship one discovers in the face of desolation.--Bethany Isaacson, Wheaton Regional Library, Silver Spring, MD[Page 130]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.