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.
6.  Only US and Canadian participants may enter the contest.

Follower Love Giveaway Hop

The Follower Love Giveaway Hop event is organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer.  Over 200 blogs have signed up to host a book related giveaway and we are all linked up together so you can easily hop from one giveaway to another.  The hop runs from Tuesday, February 8th through Sunday, February 13th.

2011 Debut Author Challenge Giveaway Theme - I decided to giveaway two books that have been on my much wanted to read list.   

Giveaway # 1 The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

Description from GoodReads:
Freak. That's what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna's own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.

When the darkest outcasts of Faerie—the vicious wood elves—abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend—even if it means betraying everything her parents and the alchemist community fought to the death to protect.  

Giveaway #2 Clarity by Kim Harrington (Advanced Reader Copy - book releases in March 2011)

Description from GoodReads:
When you can see things others can't, where do you look for the truth?
This paranormal murder mystery will have teens reading on the edge of their seats.
Clarity "Clare" Fern sees things. Things no one else can see. Things like stolen kisses and long-buried secrets. All she has to do is touch a certain object, and the visions come to her. It's a gift.

 And a curse.

When a teenage girl is found murdered, Clare's ex-boyfriend wants her to help solve the case--but Clare is still furious at the cheating jerk. Then Clare's brother--who has supernatural gifts of his own--becomes the prime suspect, and Clare can no longer look away. Teaming up with Gabriel, the smoldering son of the new detective, Clare must venture into the depths of fear, revenge, and lust in order to track the killer. But will her sight fail her just when she needs it most?

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.
2.  The Contest runs from 12:00 a.m. PST on February 8, 2011 to 11:59 p.m. PST on February 13th.
3.  You must be a follower of this blog to enter.
4.  You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.
5.  You must indicate which giveaway that you would like to be entered into.  You may enter both.
6.  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.
8.  International participants are welcome to enter the contest.

Time to Plan for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge

NoteI have update this list on 1/5/11.

I participated for the first time in The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge this year and was exposed to so many wonderful new books.  I have read over 14 debut novels and I am still reading.   There are still six more weeks in 2010 so I am certain I can get up to 20 debut author books.

Of course, it is time to start thinking about 2011 and the upcoming Debut Author Challenge and all the new and exciting books out there.  As I was reviewing the list Kristi (The Story Siren) had composed, I realized that some of these books have been on my to read list for what has seemed like a year or more. It is fun to actually see the covers for these much anticipated books.

Here are some books that I am excited about reading in 2011:

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
XVI by Julia Karr
Vespers (Deviants #1) by Jeff Sampson 
Enclave by Ann Aguire
Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulten
Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge

Clarity by Kim Harrington
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Kat the Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
The Year We Were Famous by Carol Estby Dagg

Hourglass by Myra McEntire
Divergent by Veronic Roth
Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky
The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner
The Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless by Allan Woodrow

Luminous by Dawn Metcalf

Vanished by Sheela Chari
Lost Voices by Sarah Porter

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

Witch Eyes by Scott Tracy
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

November to December
Still To Be Added

Please note that this list will be edited and updated as I identify more books that I would like to read.  If you are a Middle Grade Author with a debut book, I would love to know about it.