Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Fourth Stall

Author:  Chris Rylander
Publisher:  Walden Pond Press (February 8, 2011)
Audience:  Ages 10 to 13 years
Source:  Copy for Review 
Fiction * Mystery 

Description from GoodReads:
Chris Rylander delivers a funny Ferris Bueler-style middle grade novel with The Fourth Stall.

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

Every once in awhile, I pick up a book and I am really struck by the writing.  I need to admit this doesn't happen to me a lot.  I may like or enjoy a lot of books, but there are fewer books that make me envious.  This happened to me as I read through Chris Rylander's debut novel The Fourth Stall about two sixth graders who run a business out of a bathroom in the east wing of their school.  Mac, along with his best friend and business partner, Vince, help other students with their problems - for a price.  Business is booming until one day trouble arrives in the form of a 8 year old bookie who wants out but his "employer" has other ideas.  Can Mac and Vince help Fred and still maintain their business and friendship? 

Rylander has created a story for Middle Graders that is part Godfather and part Film Noir with some humor thrown in for good measure.  And he is successful.  Rylander has nailed the essential tropes that fans of Noir expect but not in a way that seems trite.  With a cast of well-developed supporting characters, and just enough twists and turns, both children and adult readers will find themselves eagerly flipping pages to discover how Mac is going to solve this problem. And of course, when you arrive at the end of the book, you will want to find out what further trouble Mac & the gang will face.  (Glad to hear that there will/should be a sequel.)

In addition to a well-written story, a great cast of characters, and humor, Rylander has managed to capture boys and male friendship in his book.  Mac and Vince have been friends since kindergarten.  There is certainly a strong bond between them, but what happens when certain things arise that seeks to threaten that relationship?

For as much as I love this book, the educator in me feels the need to voice one word of caution - because of the style, there is some violence (kids do get roughed up) and some questionable behaviors (most principals/teachers will frown on a business being run on campus by students) on the part of Mac and his buddies.  However, when I find a story I love, and want to share it with students, I remind them that we need to "respect the story" and that "I trust that the antics such as the ones from the book won't be re-enacted out on the playground".   Most children are then able to sort through acceptable behaviors to behaviors written to make the story more exciting. 

Overall, I love this initial offering from Rylander, and I am very excited to see how his work develops and grows in the future. 

To check out The Fourth Stall Blog Tour Week 2, head on over to the Walden Pond Press blog here

For more information on Chris Rylander, check out his website here

Thanks to Kellie and Walden Pond Press, I have a hardcover copy of The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander to giveaway.  This contest is open to readers in the U.S. or Canada only.  To enter to win, please complete the form below.

* Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays were started by Shannon over at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe. You can check out her Marvelous Middle Grade Monday choice and Giveaway Post here.

Rules for the Contest:

1. Please do not enter any personal information in the comments section, you must complete the Entry Form to officially enter the contest.  Comments with personal information will be deleted.
2.  The Contest runs from 12:00 a.m. PDT on April 11, 2011 to 11:59 p.m. PDT on April 18th.
3.  You DO NOT need to be a follower of this blog to enter.
4.  You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.
5.  If you are selected as a winner, I will notify you by e-mail.  If you do not respond within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.
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