Book Review : Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to NOT Reading

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to NOT Reading by Tommy Greenwald. 2011.

I hate to dust.

Whenever I make a “To Do” list, dusting is always on the top, because it always needs to be done.  I have allergies and my sons have allergies, so it is an important thing to do.  But I would rather do almost anything else than dust…mow the lawn, clean the bathroom, even do my taxes.  And writing a book review is a MUCH more enjoyable pastime!

Charlie Joe Jackson has a similar problem.  He is an avid non-reader and will do almost anything to get out of reading his school assignments (Charlie Joe’s Tip #3 lists several ways to get out of reading, including sleeping, pretending to clean your room, and feeding your book to the dog).  For the last two years, he and his friend Timmy have had an arrangement:  Charlie Joe buys treats for Timmy from the school cafeteria, and Timmy reads Charlie Joe’s books and tells him what they are about.

But Timmy has been balking at helping, and so Charlie Joe needs to find a way to interest Timmy in their deal again.  But his scheme backfires, and now his parents know that Charlie Joe has not been reading—and they are not pleased.

So Charlie Joe is really in big trouble…and not just with his parents.  The Position Paper assignment is coming up.  The Position Paper “involves picking a topic,…doing a ton of research (which involves reading a ton of BOOKS), and presenting a six-page paper OUT LOUD, IN CLASS to ALL THE TEACHERS IN THE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT.”  Needless to say, Charlie Joe is desperate.  How can he do the Position Paper without reading the books?

Well, Charlie Joe comes up with a great topic and a great plan.  Everything is turning out great, his Position Paper is great, and his presentation is terrific.  His not-reading record still stands, and it is almost summer vacation.  And then comes Charlie Joe’s Tip #22:  Always be wary of the Plot Twist.

I’m not going to tell you how Charlie Joe is found out and what, if anything, he learns from his situation.  But I will tell you that the story of this reluctant reader extraordinaire is very engaging.  Charlie Joe’s first-person narrative is hilarious, as are his frequent asides to the reader (p. 160—When I said “traumatic reading experience,” I should have said “traumatic near-reading experience.”  I believe “traumatic reading experience” is what they call redundant.)  The book also includes plenty of drawings, tons of wordplay, and 25 audacious anti-reading tips.

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to NOT Reading is the perfect choice for your own reluctant readers; in fact, the author explains that he wrote this book for his own three sons (Charlie, Joe, and Jack) “who would all prefer getting a dental checkup to checking out a book.”  However, the wordplay, parodies, plot twists, and characterizations also make this a fun story for students who do like to read.  And Charlie Joe’s wry humor and clever asides make this an entertaining read-aloud.

And now, thank goodness, it’s much too late to dust.  Maybe tomorrow!

Blogger:  Tracey L