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Derek Fallon gets the opportunity of a lifetime—to be a stunt boy in a major movie featuring a pretty teen starlet. Twelve-year-old Derek—a notoriously reluctant reader of everything but Calvin and Hobbes—would rather set the grass on fire with his sister’s old sunlamp than tackle his summer reading list. Meet twelve-year-old Derek, a perfect example of the kind of kid adults describe with loving exasperation as “all boy.” Derek fidgets, makes (with magic marker grids) grenades out of avocados, and, above all, doesn’t like to read required books. Derek likes to read but he tends to really enjoy things like Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield.
I think that this quick, fairly short, big-fonted, wide-margined, illustrated book could be a pretty important one for a lot of people who think that literacy and being literate in the world only happens when you read “real” books. There is mystery, humor, and personal discovery, all good things for a book that will appeal to boys in particular, and especially boys of a particular age.


My Life as a Book, My Life as a Stuntboy, and My Life as a Cartoonist were written for reluctant middle-readers, especially those needing extra visual support. More than that, though, he wants to figure out why his mom’s acting so weird about the ten-year-old article he found from a Martha’s Vineyard newspaper entitled “LOCAL GIRL FOUND DEAD ON BEACH.” That mystery threads throughout this engaging middle-grade novel, told in a dryly hilarious first-person voice. In Derek’s mind, summer means two months of liberation-that is, until his parents send him to Learning Camp so he won’t squander his intellectual potential. The last thing he thinks a summer should have is a summer reading list and a summer Learning Camp. He would probably enjoy other books, too, but he doesn’t think it fair that people (let’s say teachers and parents, mostly) get to muddle in something as private as reading choice. If that weren’t his only problem, his parents are threatening to give away his pet monkey, and his best friend just posted an embarrassing video of him on Youtube.


He outlines the trials and tribulations of Learning Camp, especially in getting along with teacher’s pet Carly.
Derek’s attempts to solve a mystery from his childhood connect the events of the story and divert readers from any hint of didacticism as he learns to build on his strengths rather than concentrate on his weaknesses. Cartoon drawings by the author’s teenaged son decorate the margins and not only re-create Derek’s illustrated vocabulary lists but also reduce the amount of text on each page, making the book more approachable for kids like Derek. Derek tells readers, “If my life were a book, I’d have my own cool adventures.” It is, and he does.



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