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Kim Tomsic

Thursday, December 30, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to NOT Reading

CHARLIE JOE JACKSON’S GUIDE TO NOT READING by Tommy Greenwald (Roaring Brook Press/July 2011 ) for middle grade readers is about Charlie Joe, a reluctant reader, whose cool-dude reputation is centered around the fact that he’s never read an entire book from cover to cover.

An advanced copy of CHARLIE JOE JACKSON’S GUIDE TO NOT READING arrived in my mailbox along with a towering pile of vacation mail. As I scattered bills and letters across the kitchen counter, I realized I couldn’t start a new book—I had several pieces of luggage to unload, stacks of laundry to wash, children to feed, and pets to attend. I was also 85% (Kindlespeak) into another book. With a cluster of beckoning priorities, a guide to NOT reading seemed safe in my hands. I knew itwould be harmless to peruse the first few pages of the “guide” as I walked from the kitchen to my upstairs bedroom. My intention was to set the ARC on my nightstand and save it for another day. But in the 47 steps it took to travel the distance from room to room, I had read to chapter four. It was quick. It was easy. Another few pages wouldn’t hurt. Yep, I was hooked.

The combination of short chapters, fun fonts, and a breezy/amusing plot suckered me into flipping page after page with a sense of accomplishment. Charlie Joe should be ashamed if his intention is to get people to not read, because read I did. He packs the book with humor and he stuffs it with tips like, “don’t care about the main character” but then compels you to worry what will happen to him following utter humiliation, dire consequences, and yet another crazy scheme.

Author Tommy Greenwald nails the middle school voice in CHARLIE JOE JACKSON’S GUIDE TO NOT READING. His tip lists are hilarious (helpful oxymorons-- “good book” “nice library”) and his descriptions are spot-on middle school: i.e. The Amish: “[People who] deny themselves basic necessities like cars, electricity, and Game Boy.”

CHARLIE JOE JACKSON’S GUIDE TO NOT READING cannot be discussed without making a Wimpy Kid reference. Fans of one story will be fans of the other. There was also a little High School Musical drama moment in the story, but as Charlie Joe’s sister would say, I’ll leave that for you to read and discover.

With lists, tips, plot points, and good intentions, Charlie Joe attempts to stay true to his premise: to deliver a guide to not reading. He did his best, but I read cover to cover and rate this book a 4 out of 5. It was not preachy or teachy, but instead light, fun, creative and (dare I use a Charlie Joe oxymoron) one fun read!  Available in July 2011 from Roaring Brook Press (an imprint of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group) $14.99. ISBN 978-1 59643 691-6 .

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