Happy MMGM, everyone!
Today, I'm reviewing Cheesie Mack is Sort of Freaked Out. I haven't read any of Steve Cotler's previous books, but there was absolutely no way I could resist a title and cover illustration like this.
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Hardcover, 256 pages
Published August 26th 2014 by Random House Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2014)
Format read: Finished copy via publisher (Thanks!!)
Cheesie and his best friend, Georgie, are too old for trick-or-treating. Besides, all that spooky nonsense is just for kids! To prove it, they pull a “far out” prank that has the whole school abuzz about aliens. When Cheesie and Georgie reveal that they were the masterminds behind the trick, Cheesie’s evil sister, Goon, plots revenge. She recruits one of Cheesie’s friends to pull off a prank that will have Cheesie wondering if the truth really is out there….
And I'm so glad I did! Because Steve Cotler and illustrator Douglas Holgate have created a world that is both fun to read and to interact in.
We catch up with Cheesie and Georgie, as they try and figure out how they can come up with a Massive! Halloween! Prank that will beat all of their previous pranks. They settle on pranking their classmates with a UFO-inspired prank, which is more successful than either boy would have ever anticipated. However, their success leads to some unexpected results, with Cheesie wondering whether or not there ARE unexplained lifeforms out there after all...
This is my first time reading one of Ronald "Cheesie" Mack's adventures, but I think I can safely say that it won't be my last. Cotler does a great job of integrating old and new readers into Cheesie's world right away, sharing inside jokes and observations between Cheesie, Georgie and their classmates that are charming, smart and age-appropriate.
(It's a pretty tall order, but Cotler manages to make it happen!)
Readers will also undoubtedly love the fact that as the story progresses, Cheesie always makes it a point to remind readers that they can share their ideas and insights with him on his webpage, This will undoubtedly engage younger readers more, while also making them think critically about what they're actually reading about. I know that there were several instances where I paused to think of questions that Cheesie was asking, which made the experience all the richer.
While I can't give too much of the plot away without spoiling the story, I will say that Cotler has Cheesie handling the unexpected twists and turns of his epic Halloween prank with maturity, and a surprising amount of wisdom. His reaction to a few key revelations had me applauding him, and thinking that this is a great literary model for the younger readers in my life.
Finally, it's not wholly related to the book, but I thought that Steve Cotler's dedication at the beginning of the book was absolutely lovely. It definitely made me pause and think in appreciation of all those who've come before me and given me the life I have now, and I can see other readers being pleasantly affected by his words, as well.
(Appropriately enough, starting an adventure mid-stream is something Cheesie discusses in this book!)
The book's smart, intelligent humor, along with Cheesie's penchant for getting into misadventures, will both delight and engage readers. Educators and parents will appreciate the opportunities for engagement that Cotler presents in the book, and the maturity that Cheesie shows throughout the book.
I highly recommend this book for all lovers of great middle-grade fiction.