Friday, September 13, 2013

Middle-Grade Review: Charlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year

We are big fans of Grammy Award-winning Bill Harley in our family; he is a singer, storyteller, author, and all-around entertainer. Even though my sons are now in their mid to late teens, listening to a Bill Harley story can still make them laugh out loud – and he has the same effect on my husband and I!  I previously reviewed another Bill Harley middle-grade novel, Night of the Spadefoot Toads, and his Dear Santa picture book remains among our favorite holiday books. So, I was thrilled to hear he’d written a new middle-grade novel, Charlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year, which is also the start of new series. I loved this novel; reading it is like listening to Bill Harley tell his stories in my head!

Charlie Bumpers is a normal kid, getting ready to start fourth grade. As the novel opens, he is frantically trying to clean his room before his mom comes home (he ends up clearing the mess out from the closet and moving it under the bed). His big brother, Matt, is always on his back and loves to tease him. His little sister, Mabel, can be cute sometimes, but she’s also very loud and can not keep a secret! Charlie’s room-cleaning comes to an abrupt stop when his mom gets home and announces that she found out who Charlie’s teacher will be this year: Mrs. Burke.

Charlie’s mom is excited because Mrs. Burke was named Teacher of the Year last year, but Charlie knows he is doomed. What his mom doesn’t know is that there was an “incident” last year when Charlie ended up throwing a sneaker that hit Mrs. Burke in the head (it’s a long story). Now, he knows she hates him, and fourth grade is ruined. Even worse, his best friend, Tommy, is in a different class.

Charlie does his best to make a good impression on Mrs. Burke and start the year off right, but things never turn out the way he intended. Somehow, Charlie always ends up in trouble – with Mrs. Burke, with his classmates, and even with the new gym teacher, Mr. Shuler, aka General Shuler, Intergalatic Supreme Commander of Soccer Balls. How will Charlie ever survive the whole year when he can barely get through the first week?

The writing and story in this novel are pitch-perfect for younger middle-grade readers. Charlie and his friends feel like real kids, struggling with real problems. As always, Harley captures childhood perfectly, with a nice dose of his trademark humor and plenty of warmth. This series is sure to be a hit with kids who like reading about real-life kids like themselves and fans of the Horrible Harry series who are a little older now.

138 pages, Peachtree Publishers

Check out Bill Harley's Charlie Bumpers website, including a book trailer. 

If you have never heard Bill Harley perform before, listen to him tell one of his classic kid stories, Zanzibar:


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