Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander

Do you need something? Mac can get it for you. It's what he does - he and his best friend and business manager, Vince. Their methods might sometimes run afoul of the law, or at least the school code of conduct, but if you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can pay him, Mac is on your side. His office is located in the East Wing boys' bathroom, fourth stall from the high window. And business is booming.

Or at least it was, until one particular Monday. It starts with a third grader in need of protection. And before this ordeal is over, it's going to involve, a legendary high school crime boss named Staples, an intramural gambling ring, a graffiti ninja, the nine most dangerous bullies in school, and the first Chicago Cubs World Series game in almost seventy years. And that's just the beginning. Mac and Vince soon realize that the trouble with solving everyone else's problems is that there's no one left to solve yours. - taken from dust jacket

So I think my girl-bias might have skewed my impression of the story a bit. I didn't LOVE this book, but I think that's because this is definitely a book written for boys. And you know what? I'm perfectly OK with that. I need to find more books for my classroom that appeal to boys and this one fits the bill.

I liked how tongue-and-cheek the whole story is with being a spoof of The Godfather, all the way down to the cover art. Though I think adults will get more of a kick out of this than the kids since I'm assuming most 11 and 12 year-old boys haven't seen The Godfather (Truth be told, neither have I, but I'm old enough to know a great deal of facets of the story since it's so much a part of American pop culture). Still, reading this book made me consider for the first time my need to actually watch this movie. I've never had any desire up until now to see The Godfather, but now I feel like some really hilarious scenes in this book probably went right over my head since I've never seen the movie.

The writing in this book was really simple, but I'm sure that was by design. Rylander was clearly targeting boys for this story, and middle-grade boys like clean, no-nonsense writing. As I was reading all I could think was, "Why didn't he describe this character more?" or "Why didn't he describe this setting in more detail?" but the more I read the book, the more I realized the sparse descriptions were all a part of the boy-appeal. 

The ending of the story wraps everything up nicely, yet still leaves you hanging in a big way.  A lot of times cliffhangers just make me frustrated and angry.  This one, however, made me think to myself, "Ooooh!  Does that mean there's going to be another book?  There HAS to be another book!  He can't end it like that and not write another one!"

Now that I'm finished, I will definitely be handing this off to some of my sixth grade boys. I'm sure they'll get a huge kick out of it.  

The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander
Published: February 8, 2011 by Walden Pond Press
Pages: 314
Genre: Realistic fiction
Audience: Middle grade

Review copy provided by publisher

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