How not to read

All summer long, you’ve managed to avoid anything that even remotely resembles school.  You get enough of it from now until spring, so why add to the misery, right?  And yeah, you’ve been reading all summer long but that doesn’t count because reading is fun.

Or is it?  In the new audiobook “Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to NOT Reading” by Tommy Greenwald, performed by MacLeod Andrews, you’ll meet one kid who definitely disagrees with you.

Charlie Joe Jackson hates to read. He hates reading so much that he’ll do anything to avoid books.

For awhile, Charlie Joe could get out of reading by crying but that’s not a good idea any more – especially for a guy – so he’s been paying his best friend, Timmy McGibney to read school assignments. Timmy reads, writes a synopsis, gives it to Charlie Joe, and gets ice cream in exchange. It’s a fair trade, and nobody gets hurt.

Except the assignments are a little harder in middle school and Timmy is tired of covering for Charlie Joe. Timmy says he doesn’t want to “help” anymore, not even for ice cream.

But ice cream isn’t the only currency in middle school. Charlie Joe happens to know that Timmy wants to be on the baseball team (because Katie Friedman mentioned it) and he also happens to know that Eliza’s father is the team’s coach. Plus, Timmy has a crush on Eliza, even though she has a crush on Charlie Joe.

So if Charlie Joe can get Timmy on the baseball team and he can get his sister, Megan, to read the class assignment, then Charlie Joe might be able to get the class nerd to help out with a big school report, which must be done by every middle-school student.  To do that, Charlie Joe had to plan something really HUGE: if he could get Jake Katz (a nice guy, but weird) and Hannah Spivero (who was, hands-down, the most awesome girl in middle school) together – two people that nobody would ever match up – then he could observe the results and base his report on it without ever reading ONE WORD. 

But, as the famous book once said (or should have said), things like this are meant to backfire – loudly.

Got a reluctant reader who’s heading back to school this year? Then give “Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to NOT Reading” a listen in the car on the way there.

Author Tommy Greenwald and performer MacLeod Andrews are a winning combination here. Greenwald’s story about the extreme measures that one boy will take to uphold his reputation of non-readership is hilarious for booklovers and the paper-averse, but it wouldn’t be the same without the too-hip, perfectly sarcastic middle-schooler delivery from Andrews. Together, they’ll send kids in search for the rest of the books in this funny series.

Readers or not, 9-to13-year-olds will particularly get a kick out of this audiobook because it’s just that: not a book. For them, “Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to NOT Reading” is not something to avoid.

• The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer.


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