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Release Date
January 05, 2016
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Oggie Cooder loves cheese so much that he carries a slice of cheese with him wherever he goes. It’s not just for a snack -- Oggie is an excellent charver. (Charving is when you chew a piece of cheese to carve it in the shape of something.) The kids at school think Oggie’s charving is a little strange. But when a big TV show comes looking for people with unusual talents, Oggie is suddenly Mr. Popular. Can Oggie charve a path to fame and score an invite to the party of the year without melting under the pressure? No matter how you slice it, you’re going to laugh when you read about one small kid becoming a really big cheese, in this hilarious combination of Oggie Cooder and Oggie Cooder, Party Animal.

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Plot/Characters/Writing Style
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Originally published as Oggie Cooder (2000) and Oggie Cooder, Party Animal (2009), Cheese capitalizes on Oggie's main hobby (and stress reliever) of charving-- chewing and carving cheese into different shapes-- and gives the book a new cover reminscent of the author's more recent works, Pie and Honey.

Oggie lives with his parents, who run a local resale shop and get most of Oggie's wacky clothes as well as household furnishings from their attempts to stock the store at garage sales. It's a tough business, especially when a pipe breaks and is going to set them back $10,000, so Oggie is always on the lookout for contests he can enter. He doesn't win a trip to Florida for naming a bagel (Raisin' the Roof is so much better than Sunshine!), but he thinks he might be able to win the local version of Hidden Talents by charving a selection of states. That is, until neighbor Donnica Perfecto talks him into teaching her to charve, so she upstages him. She doesn't have Oggie's talents, though, and he is victorious, even though he chooses not to go on to the next level.

In Oggie Cooder, Party Animal, Donnica's mother makes her invite Oggie to her pool party because Oggie's mother is helpful and is an influential part of the garden club that Ms. Perfecto wants to join. Donnica is not pleased and fears that Oggie will totally ruin her party, especially since her father has hired Bumbles the juggling bear instead of the local hot high school band, Cheddar Jam. (The books are set in Wisconsin.) Oggie also has to deal with a poetry project at school and has to write a haiku while trying desperately, with the help of his friend Amy, to memorize all of Donnica's rules for how he should and should not behave at the party. In typical Oggie fashion, however, he manages to save the day.
Good Points
Weeks does a great job with humorous books, Regular Guy (1999) remains a staple in my middle school library. Oggie is goofy, with his seersucker pants and habit of making odd noises, and his attempts to fit in with his classmates will resonate with elementary aged readers).

The great thing about middle grade fiction is that it is often about kids who DO things. In Oggie's case, it is mainly charving, but he also gets into all sorts of different activities. Donnica's party in particular speaks to the sort of difficult situation many kids find themselves in when trying to fit in.

Cheese fits right in with other timeless, humorous novels like Park's Skinny-bones, Dowell's Phineas McGuire and Paula Danziger's Matthew Martin series and delivers plenty of laughs. Just lock up the plastic wrapped, processed cheese slices if you buy this for your own children-- you might inadvertently start them on a new hobby!
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