Monday, May 30, 2011

Review: Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading

by Tommy Greenwald
illustrated by J. P. Coovert
Roaring Brook Press, July 5 2011
contemporary middle-grade
reviewed from ARC, courtesy of publisher
reviewed by Yahong Chi

Summary (from the back of the ARC):
Charlie Joe is proud to say that he's never read an entire book cover to cover. Sure he's glanced at the first and last chapters, and maybe even read the cover, but when it comes to reading what's in the middle, Charlie counts on his friend Timmy McGibney to do the reading for him in an exchange for an ice cream sandwich. Sounds easy enough, right? But what happens when Timmy's price goes up to three ice cream sandwiches? What's an industrious non-reader to do?

It's the voice that jumps out first thing, which is excellent since this is a "boy book" and also aimed at reluctant readers. (Oh, the irony...) Charlie Joe manages to come off as appealing despite his deviousness when it comes to reading -- or maybe because of it. There's ample attitude: "The tune I came up with is pretty catchy, but you can't hear it, because this is a book -- another problem with books by the way."

CJJ's family is refreshingly normal, and it's pleasing to see a protagonist who actually likes his siblings (his sister plays an important part in the story's plotline). The school friends, however, were a bit less distinctive, especially with commonplace names like Timmy, Jake, Katie and Hannah. They all have different roles, but the reader never is emotionally invested in any of them, only Charlie Joe. Surprisingly, Greenwald does an excellent job with the teachers ("Did being handsome give him [Mr. Dormer] the right to be so completely not funny?").

The plot could've come off as heavy-handed and message-laden, but thanks to Charlie Joe's narration, the topic of cliques, labels and peer pressure doesn't dominate the book -- his focus is still on getting out on reading. And the end result when his not-reading habits come back to bite him makes for a very good whole-circle, from end to beginning feel.

I have to quote a passage with the dogs, Moose and Coco,  here:
"We have no idea what you're doing, you've never done anything like this before, but we still love you, and we'll wait as long as it takes," their eyes would say, taking pity on me as I sat on my computer. "We know that one day you'll realize that it's summer, and that you should absolutely not be doing what you're doing. You should be outside playing with us."

They're absolutely right.
I think that captures exactly what dogs are like.

There'll be illustrations throughout the finished copy, and the few chapter illustrations in this ARC already tell me they're going to be adorable:

Oh, and the acknowledgements make for some entertaining reading too. :D

Pre-order this book on Amazon.

And check out an interview by Mike Winchell with the author here!


  1. So excited for Tommy and this book!

  2. Until Yahong gets the link active, I interviewed Tommy Greenwald over at my blog. Check out the interview at:

  3. I cannot wait to get my hands on this book so I can take it into book club. Well, I have to! Thanks for sharing this! Cheers...Deb

  4. thanks for the review yahong! next time i'm totally naming the supporting characters orville, vladimir, primrose and calista. best, tg

  5. A book about a reluctant reader--aimed at reluctant readers. I love it! It sounds like a lot of fun. (And, just for the record, I really like the names Orville, Vladimir, Primrose, and Calista.)

  6. My sister swore she'd name her future son Archibald, just so she could shout from the back door, "Archibald! Dinner's ready!" Thankfully he's named Sam.

  7. When I was in elementary school, there was another Tim in my class. The teacher told us one would be called Tim and the other Timmy. I lucked out as the Tim. I shudder to think that I might still be called Timmy to this day!

  8. Sounds like a great read! Thanks for the review, Yahong!

  9. This sounds like a good companion to My Life as a Book. I'll definitely take a look. (And there were TWO David S.'s in my son's class. He started as Day and is now Vid!)


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!