Review Detail

Keep your enemies closer
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Marty is still at war with Simon, and irritated beyond belief that everyone thinks the other boy is charming when Marty knows full well his ONLY talent is to draw pictures of a well known cartoon character. When Marty gets in trouble for calling Simon a "monkey washer" and has to apologize, and Marty's dog Jerome eats a paper with Simon's name on it, leaving only the enigmatic word "NOWIS", Marty becomes convince that Marty is actually a wizard who is exerting his evil powers to convince everyone he is wonderful, and sets out to prove this. There are other things going on, like his sister's stressful science project, and Marty gets distracted, even feeling at one point that Simon might not be too bad! When the two boys end up working on a school project together, Marty starts to think that maybe he has misread Simon's intentions... or is that all part of the wizardry as well?
Good Points
Books where children are well meaning but still get themselves into trouble, like Peirce's Big Nate, are always popular with middle grade readers, who themselves have difficulty controlling themselves in all situations. I once had a student lick the leaves of a flower arrangement on my desk, and when I asked him why, he honestly didn't even know why he had done it. This explains so much of Marty's world, but at least he has some friends, like Roongrat and Parker, as well as supportive parents, to keep him in line a little bit.

This notebook novel has a large number of illustrations than some of this genre, more along the lines of Watson's Stick Dog, Pichon's Tom Gates and Barnett's Mac B.: Spy Kid and than Greenwald's Charlie Joe Jackson series. The pictures themselves are quite pleasing-- strong black lines that can turn goofy at the flick of Parisi's wrist. As an added bonus, there is a flip book of Jerome tumbling down the pages! The pictures are very light, but I knew right away why they were there!

Marty's belief that odd things are happening in his world (In Keep Your Paws Off, he thinks his sister is a werewolf!) might make older readers wonder if he has some sort of developmental disorder, younger readers will love the fact that they are so much smarter than Marty! And who knows-- given Jerome's oddly hornlike ears, maybe Marty isn't imaging as much as I think!
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