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Mudshark

by Gary Paulsen.


Syndetic Solutions - [Book Review for 9780385746854]

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Publishers Weekly :

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Without even trying, Mudshark is a very cool 12-year-old (he acquired his nickname after wowing his peers with lightning-speed reflexes during a game of Death Ball (a kind of soccer mixed with football and wrestling and rugby and mudfighting). He is mentally quick as well: his powers of observation and photographic memory enable him to tell kids where to find misplaced possessions. But when the school librarian acquires an apparently psychic parrot, Mudshark's role is threatened. This, he reluctantly admits, rattled his cool, and he is determined to discover the whereabouts of the missing blackboard erasers before the parrot does, a feat that entails crafty and comical maneuverings. Additional diversions (chapters open with dispatches from the principal, offering updates on a loose gerbil and an escalating crisis in the faculty restroom) keep this compact story quick and light. Yet three-time Newbery Honor author Paulsen (Hatchet) delves deeper, shaping Mudshark as a credible and compassionate protagonist, despite his improbable abilities and the even more improbable situations that arise at his off-kilter school. Which makes this clever novel all the cooler. Ages 8–12. (May)

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Syndetic Solutions - [Book Review for 9780385746854]

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School Library Journal :

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Gr 3–6—His reflexes honed chasing triplet toddler sisters, Lyle Williams, 12, earned the nickname Mudshark during an especially fierce game of Death Ball. He relishes reading and observing the world as much as he enjoys sports, and his memory for finding lost articles wins him the prestige of unofficial school detective. The inevitable trouble in paradise occurs when the librarian's psychic parrot threatens his reputation. Mudshark decides that he can simultaneously neutralize the bird and solve a missing-eraser problem with a little help from a wacky assortment of classmates. The principal's intercom announcements that introduce each chapter may cause teary-eyed chortles ("Please refrain from forming hunting parties to hunt the gerbil"). Paulsen presents readers with the unabashedly entertaining machinations of Mudshark, lone bastion of sanity in the midst of school chaos. Fresh and light with scads of humor, this is a tale that doesn't take itself too seriously. That said, the episodes of school-borne mischief hit their target audience just right. Themes of community, literacy, and determination find an oddly snug fit alongside radioactive faculty restrooms and crayfish population explosions. Use this as a classroom read-aloud or hand it to children who like quick reads with strong vocabulary. Fatten those lean humor sections with this slim charmer.—Caitlin Augusta, The Darien Library, CT

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BookList :

From BookList, February 15, 2009, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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In this very short grade-school mystery, Paulsen introduces readers to Mudshark (real name Lyle Williams), a student with astonishing powers of observation, an iron-clad memory, and an ice-cool demeanor. Whenever something goes missing, Mudshark's the guy to find it. So when all the erasers disappear from the classrooms, the principal enlists Mudshark to uncover the culprit. Paulsen weaves in a wide cast of humorous characters, including an art-aficionado custodian and a psychic parrot who seems to be muscling in on Mudshark's beat. Paulsen's deft hand with detailing and sometimes-light, sometimes-heavy touches of humor draw the story along more than the mystery, as readers might arrive at the solution before they really realize what they're supposed to be on the lookout for. But Paulsen makes it a fun, if slight, ride all the same, and it's always refreshing to see a character that is legitimately cool because he's smart. Give this to readers who aren't quite ready for the adventures of the like-minded Calder from Blue Balliett's novels. Chipman, Ian.

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