LJ's Reviews > Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald
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Aug 22, 11

bookshelves: juvenile-books
Read in August, 2011

** spoiler alert ** The premise of the book is this: middle school student, Charlie Jo Jackson hasn't read a book from beginning to end since reading The Giving Tree. He has completed any book-related assignments by paying a fellow student, Timmy McGibney, in extra cafeteria treats to give him a summary of the guts of the books while Charlie just reads the first and last chapters. This works out great until Timmy ups the price. And the reason he does this is a typical middle-school snarl of drama: Timmy and Charlie are trying out for the lacrosse team. Timmy thinks Charlie will be picked because the lacrosse team's coach's daughter, Eliza likes Charlie. Charlie doesn't like Eliza, but he thinks he'll use her liking him to his own advantage by asking Eliza to talk to her dad and convince him to choose Timmy for the team. Eliza gets mad at Charlie (she thought he was talking to her to ask her out) and tells the whole hallway how crazy it is that Charlie's asking her to intervene in the tryouts when she doesn't care too hoots about lacrosse (Eliza is the popular beauty queen of the school, complete with entourage). So this does nothing to improve Charlie's chances of getting Timmy to cough up the book summary.

It's a funny book, sprinkled with Charlie's Tips for not reading (numbered) that are pretty amusing. Example: Tip #10's advice on how to convice others that you do read includes, "use the word therefore a lot" and, "get a shirt with a picture of Mark Twain on it." Charlie is a smart kid who is quite media savvy. He knows about databases like IMDB, uses Facebook and texts his friends. But if he does all these things, how come he never looked up a summary of his books on the internet? I don't know if the intended audience for this book would be bothered by this question, but I was. I kept thinking all along, why the elaborate efforts to get another kid to read for you when you can get a summary online for most books? If Charlie didn't know this, one of his friends probably did and would clue him in. These ideas spread like wildfire. It makes the plot sort-of fall apart.

Charlie does eventually get caught and his punishment is either to write a book on the subject of his choice, or to read 10 books over the summer and report on them. He chooses to write a book on the subject of not reading, which naturally turns out to be the book you have in your hand. It's not moral heavy and Charlie is a likable kid, so inspite of the disconnect I mentioned, I think most kids would like it.
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