Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Great Book for Middle School Boys

The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander
Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins, 2011
grades 5-8

This past week was rough. Rough. This book helped - I laughed out loud several times while reading it, and that's not too common.

This is a humorous book and it has some great one-liners, but Rylander also manages to successfully balance that humor with poignant truths about middle school, friendship, and tough family situations.

The kids in Mac's school, whether in first grade or eighth, all know that they can count on him to solve their problems. He mostly deals in things like test answers and forged hall passes or doctor's notes. He's built up a network of sources and collected some favors, and runs his business from the fourth stall in the East Wing bathroom, with his best friend and business manager Vince. Business is booming, and that's a good thing - the guys are die-hard Cubs fans, saving up for baseball tickets in case their beloved team makes it to the World Series.

But, when Mac tries to protect a third grader who has gotten in over his head in a gambling ring, he may have finally taken on a problem he can't fix. Not to mention he's discovered some discrepancies in his bookkeeping and a possible traitor in his midst.

I had a little trouble at times keeping the characters straight, especially when the nine bullies are introduced...Snapper's the biter, Great White is British...beyond that, I couldn't exactly remember the others but decided it wasn't central to the story. And honestly, that could have just been my tired brain. The book slows a bit in the middle, but the mystery of who stole the money (and why) and the need to see how Mac's problems end, kept me reading. While most things are wrapped up neatly, there's definitely a hint that another book about Mac may be in the future.

Reviewed from library copy

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