Charlie Joe will do just about anything to avoid reading in this humorous cautionary tale for book-hating middle-grade students.
Debut author Greenwald takes on the persona of Charlie Joe Jackson, a middle-school boy who hates reading. His avoidance techniques get him into serious trouble with his parents, his teachers and his friends. After a year of avoiding reading—paying off a friend in ice-cream sandwiches to read books for him and manipulating his friends so he won't have to read for the all-important position-paper project—Charlie Joe is forced to spend his summer vacation writing a book about his poor choices. Charlie Joe's insider knowledge of the inner machinations of middle-school cliques will make younger readers smile in anticipation, and his direct address to readers makes make him feel like an older buddy showing the way. Sprinkled into the narrative are "Charlie Joe's Tips" to avoiding reading books, written on faux notebook paper, that serve as a little diversion from the plot. As amusing as this is, Charlie Joe's voice is not consistent and occasionally jars with the intelligent, smart-guy sarcasm that characterizes most of Charlie Joe's prose.That aside, slackers everywhere have a new, likable hero in Charlie Joe Jackson. (Fiction. 10-12) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Greenwald pulls off a clever bit of reverse psychology in his debut, first in a series starring a cheeky middle grader who goes to great lengths to avoid reading--and whose humor and rapid-fire delivery should draw in like-minded kids. From the start, Charlie Joe schmoozes playfully with readers, promising short chapters and shorter words ("One syllable. Or less"). Kids who, upon entering the school library, may have been asked (as Charlie Joe is), "did you take a wrong turn somewhere?" will find an enthusiastic advocate in the boy. Throughout, he provides "tips" that dedicated nonreaders will enjoy ("If you have to read a book, make sure it has short chapters"). The novel chronicles Charlie Joe's machinations to avoid reading, which involve getting his classmates to do so for him; using this tactic for a research paper about school cliques yields revelations about clique mentality, but lands Charlie Joe in more trouble. Doth Charlie Joe protest too much? Maybe, but Greenwald wisely eschews an end-of-story reformation for his comic antihero, ensuring that readers will be treated to more of his entertaining circumlocutions in future books. Ages 9-12. (July)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC
Gr 5-7--Charlie Joe Jackson is a likable middle schooler and an unabashed nonreader. In fact, he's so against the practice that he constantly flirts with danger to ensure that he never has to crack a book. He makes deals with friends to fill him in on assigned reading. When he is caught, it becomes much more difficult to pull off his year-end, research-heavy "Position Paper." He nails it, but there is no happy ending, and he writes a book--this book--as punishment. Greenwald believably inhabits the mind of a tween, with the cliques and short-lived first romances that come with it. Charlie Joe narrates his story while providing humorous tips between chapters about reading and avoiding it. This is a fun, fast-moving look at middle-school life through the eyes of a kid who would rather clean his room than pick up a book. Reluctant readers will be pleased.--Travis Jonker, Dorr Elementary School, MI[Page 102]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.