Sunday, August 11, 2013

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Summer Vacation, by Tommy Greenwald

I figured this was fitting to post today as I am sending my own 10 year old off to sleep away camp today!

Resident non-reader Charlie Joe may just have gotten himself in over his head this time.  In a moment of temporary craziness and trying to please his parents, Charlie Joe agreed to 3 weeks at a camp for smarty pants kids.  Camp Ritubukkee.  Pronounced Read-a-Bookie.  For real.  Now that the time has come, he is pretty much in shock about the whole thing.  At least his bud Katie Friedman will be there, and Nareem from school will be there too.

The camp schedule is filled with "workshops", which Charlie Joe knows is just code for classwork.  He cannot believe that kids actually acquiesce to go to what is essentially summer school.  Charlie Joe is also a bit bummed because he had just started hanging around with Zoe, and if he had the summer off like a normal kid, that might just have gone somewhere.

Charlie Joe doesn't exactly get off the a stellar start at camp.  At school kids know him and know that he wields his sense of humor like a finely sharpened sword.  Here, his anti-reading stance and his sarcasm aren't appreciated.  Charlie Joe decides that it's going to be in everybody's best interests for him to try to de-dorkify these kids...get them to relax a little bit and enjoy the summer.

What Charlie Joe doesn't expect is to get sucked into the world of reading (just a bit), to use his devious brain for the greater good, and to genuinely like some of these campers.

Tommy Greenwald has created a reluctant reader character who is incredibly authentic.  Charlie Joe doesn't have trouble reading, he just can't be bothered.  I know several kids like this.  By putting Charlie Joe in a camp with kids who pretty much adore learning, there is super wide appeal to this title.  The writing is tight, the voice is authentic and I love the fact that unlike other series that aim for this audience, Charlie Joe isn't mean.  I had the pleasure of meeting Tommy at ALA in Chicago this summer, and was super pleased to relate the story of my own real life reluctant reader really taking to this series.  When kids want a step up from the Wimpy Kid titles, send them over to Charlie Joe!

1 comment:

Susie Highley said...

I've listened to all of the Charlie Joe books-- I've been very impressed. After CJJGTSV, I listened to Patterson's new Middle School book about summer camp. I much prefer Greenwald! Much more positive, and doesn't appeal to the potty and other low brow humor, yet I think kids will still enjoy it.