I don’t typically like Middle Grade children’s fiction which feature bad boys or bratty girls. When I read Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading last year for the Cybils, I was inexplicably charmed by him, even though he was for all intents and purposes, a dude with a ‘tude.
He’s back in Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Extra Credit. The shift to a more conscientious middle schooler is evident in the title, right?
Charlie Joe’s parents and school counselor have teamed up to challenge Charlie Joe Jackson to live up to his potential. If he doesn’t bring up his lackluster grades from those C’s to A’s (with maybe one allowance for a B), then he’s going to be sent to Camp Rituhbukkee for the summer (My eight-year-old son Kyle and I agree that “Readabookie” is the best name ever).
He’s determined to avoid this fate worse than death (his dislike of reading having been firmly established in his first book) by getting help from his more studious friends and seeking extra credit in all of his classes. The extra credit pursuit leads to him posing for a model for his art teacher — in an embarrassing costume, joining student government to placate his gym teacher, and going out for the school play to boost his grade in drama.
I enjoyed this one even more than the first one. There were lots of fun new characters introduced, and since Charlie Joe Jackson was on the up-and-up, I didn’t have the niggling feeling of guilt about being charmed by a bad boy.
There is some middle school romance, including crushes, hand-holding and a few pecks on the cheek. I used to feel as if this was not age-appropriate for the 3rd grade set, those on the lower end of the middle grade 8 – 12 spectrum. However my 8 1/2 year old son and I listened to this together, and he enjoyed it. I realized it’s not any different than Candace and Jeremy on Phineas and Ferb or the escapades of those crazy teens on iCarly, which most kids have been watching since they were 6 (whether that’s “right” or not is for another post).
We listened to the first one on audio too (my 13-year-old daughter and I), and MacLeod Andrews did such a great job that I knew I wanted to “read” the second on audiobook. He lends the right amount of youthful energy to Charlie Joe, and distinguishes between the other voices well.
Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Summer Vacation comes out in May 2013. I know two kids and a mom who will be looking forward to listening.
Jennifer has shared books such as these with her daughter for many years and now is happy to now share them with her son.