Monday, May 21, 2012

REVIEW: Fake Mustache (Fun, but I missed Origami Yoda)

Angleberger, T.  (2012).  Fake Mustache.  New York:  Abrams.

196 pages.

Looking at this book's endpages, for the first time ever, I find myself wishing I could grow a mustache.  I suppose this is the purpose of having a fake one.  Although, I wouldn't pay 129.99 for a handlebar mustache...or any mustache.

Appetizer:  Seventh grader Leny Flem Jr. saved the world.  Fake Mustache is the story of how that happened.  It began with Casper's birthday and him receiving money from his Grandma.  He and Leny go to Sven's Fair Price Store and to Chauncey's Big & Small, Short & Tall to buy a fake handlebar mustache and a man-about-town suit where Chauncey spends, spends, spends.

Soon after, a series of bank robberies occur.  The robber is a "short, well-dressed man-about-town sporting a spectacular handlebar mustache" (p. 27).  Leny can't help but suspect his best friend.  But soon enough, the situation escalates and Leny realizes his best friend is a mad, genius, criminal mastermind who can only be stopped with the help of a child TV star named  Jodie O'Rodeo.

As with Angleberger's Origami Yoda series, Fake Mustache uses short chapters and humor to entertain readers from ages seven to 11-ish.  The humor is very fun and off the wall.  (It kind of felt like Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians for a slightly younger crowd).  Plus, it would be a great book to graduate fans of the Captain Underpants series to.  But even more than that, I was reminded of the Sideways Stories from Wayside School series.  While I would argue that, like Sachar, Angleberger's story felt a little too rushed or silly, it also captured Sachar's sense of the absurd.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Angleberger that is a new King of the Absurd.  Feel free to quote me on that.  And although the book felt a little too silly for adult-me, I imagine I would have loved it when I was in the third grade.

And there is a lot to love:  Kids saving the world, disguising themselves as adults, librarians, mimes, plumbers, accordion players, politicians and bank robberies.  AND FAKE MUSTACHES!

Although mainly told from Lenny's point of view, a portion of the story (starting around page 120) is also told from Jodie O'Rodeo's, a tough, horse-riding, former celebrity.  I liked this choice, particularly because in the case of young male readers who may be reluctant to read from a girl's perspective, that far into the story they should already be invested so they'll give Jodie more of a chance.

There's also a large portion of the story during which Lenny must disguise himself as a girl.  While this is mainly intended to be humorous there's also a possibility for this to be interpreted as empowering for the right child (and not nearly as didactic as a book like My Princess Boy) when Lenny first asks a store owner if he can change into a costume:
" you mind if I use the changing room?""For the costume?  I thought it was for your sister.""Well, no, it's for me, actually.""Follow your dreams!  Never stop dreaming!" Sven sang out. (p. 60)
Although most likely a book read solely to amuse, there are some aspects that relate to politics and voting, making this a nice read aloud for the end of October or start of November.  (Many of the events also occur on Halloween.)  There's also a short parody of the Government bailouts on p. 82.  Fake Mustache also includes a lot of great vocabular:  superlative, hirsute, deterrent, etc.  Plus, when the novel is narrated from Jodie's point of view, she describes how upsetting it is to receive mean messages in emails or on Facebook and twitter, lending the book to a brief talk about cyber bullying (pp. 119-120).

Dinner Conversation:

"You may remember seeing me on TV when Jodie O'Rodeo saved the world.  I was that nerdy guy in the background that nobody could figure out what he was doing there.  But nobody really cared because Jodie O'Rodeo had just saved the world.  Remember?
Well, that was me, Lenny Flem Jr., and believe it or not, I saved the world too.  Me and Jodie saved the world together.  And this is the story of how we did it."  (p. 2)

"My dad dropped me off at Casper's and made me promise to phone him to pick me up instead of trying to walk home.  "Remember, there's a made genius criminal mastermind on the loose, and you never know where he might be," he said.
Actually, I was fairly sure that I DID know where the mad genius criminal mastermind was, but I didn't tell Dad that." (p. 34)

"That's when our front door was knocked open by a battering ram and fast-food restaurant employees burst through, pointing at me and yelling, 'There he is!  The Evil One!  Grab him!'" (p. 45)

"That gave me two options:  I could hide in the woods, where I wouldn't have to worry about anybody, except maybe brainwashed forest rangers.
Or I could do what Casper had done and get a disguise.  A disguise would allow me to keep an eye on things and try to figure out what Casper was up to.  I mean, if I went off and hid in the woods, there would be no one to stop him from doing whatever it was he was doing." (p. 54)

"But my favorite part was when he warned us of the Evil One, a desperate bank-robbing criminal mastermind who is living in Hairsprinkle disguised as a boy named Lenny."
"It's terrifying to think the Evil One may be in Hairspinkle right now!"
"It sure is," I said.
I couldn't believe it!  Fako Mustacho--I mean, Casper--had somehow convinced everybody that I was the bank-robbing bad guy, not him, even though he was the one with the mustache!" (p. 64)

"Hey, everybody, it's me, Jodie O'Rodeo.
This whole thing is pretty crazy, huh?  I mean, if this was the plot to an episode of The Jodie O'Rodeo Showdeo, you'd be like, "Jodie's totally lost it."
Well, hold on, because it's about to get all jacked up like you wouldn't believe!" (p. 116)

Tasty Rating:  !!!

Also, OMG!  The next Origami Yoda book is coming out in August.  I want to pre-order it so badly but I don't know where I will be living!  Ugh.  WHY?

It looks glorious!

1 comment:

  1. Love the site and thanks for the post about fake mustaches. I made sure to give you a Google +1 for your post.



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