Henry Reed for the New Millenium
In this sequel to Teddy Mars: Almost a Record Breaker and Teddy Mars: Almost a Winner, big changes are coming to the Mars household. Ms. Mars has gotten a job as an animal control officer since Jake (the Destructor) will be heading to kindergarten. To help out with the transition over the summer, Great Aunt Ursula will be staying with the family. Teddy is not a fan of Ursula and her rules, but there is no denying that a family with seven children might need some help to adjust to this change. Teddy is concerned about having to take care of Jake, who is prone to doing things like living in the cat box or walking around in a shirt festooned with tin cans. It makes sense that his teacher assigns him to be a buddy with Jake the following year, but Teddy doesn't have to be happy about it. He does love his teacher, Ms. Raffeli, and is glad to be working on a mural project with her and his friends over the summer. Once Ursula moves in, things start to change. For one, she has a small dog named Peanut to whom Jake takes a shine. Jake also starts to weave potholders and to behave. Other siblings help out with housework and are persuaded by Ursula to give up their most annoying behaviors. It doesn't work as well with Teddy-- he and friends Lonnie and Viva are determined to break a world record even though Ursula would rather they mow the lawn or clean the basement. When Teddy's mother's job is at odds with the Grumpy Pigeon Man's pigeons, Teddy must try to look outside of himself for ways to help his friend and the pigeons for whom he cares.
Teddy is an exuberant characters with a lot of endearing qualities. He's not a bad kid, just a typical one who would rather be playing with his friends rather than doing chores. He is annoyed by his younger brother, but wants to try to help him. He's not pleased that his mother won't be at home, but is glad that she is proud of her new job, and really wants her to be happy. The other characters in the book are portrayed in a realistic fashion as well. It is unusual to see a family with this many children in modern middle grade literature, but the realities of having a large family are sympathetically addressed.
Interspersed with Teddy's exploits are his attempts at breaking records as well as details about records that are already in the books. The Guinness Book of World Records is perennially popular with elementary and middle school students, and gives this series an additional selling point.
Like many humorous series with boys as the main character, Teddy Mars mixes the goofy with the sympathetic in a way that will appeal to readers who would be right at home at a cafeteria table with Byar's Bingo Brown, Danziger's Matthew Martin, Dowell's Phineas L. MacGuire, Harley's Charlie Bumpers or Weeks' Regular Guy.