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The fourth stall

by Chris Rylander


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Debut novelist Rylander mines a substantial amount of humor and heart from this combination hard-boiled crime novel and middle-grade character piece. Sixth-graders Mac (the problem solver) and Vince (the financial adviser) have long run a fix-it business, helping kids get everything from loans to protection from bullies. When a third-grader named Fred claims he's being threatened by legendary dropout and crime boss Staples, Mac and his associates (including a group of oddball bullies that range from a third-grade "biter" to a skilled hacker) are drawn into a series of encounters that could lead to them getting beat up and losing the money they've made over the years. And since their beloved Cubs are about to make the World Series, losing that money means not being able to buy tickets. Rylander throws in some class issues-Mac and Vince met when living in a trailer park, but Mac's family now lives in a nicer house-and balances them with silliness (the title refers to the unused bathroom stall in which Mac's office is located). The resulting mix is a light and enjoyable caper. Ages 8-12. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Gr 4-7-Sixth-grader Mac is a fixer, a problem solver. He runs a thriving business helping kids with everything from test answers to bullying. With his best friend and fellow Cubs fanatic, Vince, he makes a tidy profit greasing the skids for his classmates. Working out of a stall in an unused restroom, the buddies have amassed enough cash to buy tickets to a World Series game should the Cubs finally make it. But a seemingly simple job protecting a third grader from bullies brings a confrontation with Staples, a thugish dropout who Mac thought was only a legend. Staples is expanding his gambling ring into Mac's territory, threatening his business, and Mac will need all of his considerable talents to deal with the older and far more ruthless villain and his assortment of nasty henchmen. The writing is witty and there are some memorable characters, but the pace will not keep reluctant readers engaged. Vince's frequent nonsensical quotations from bizarre relatives and the boys' exchange of Cubs trivia can also be tiresome. However, the story does have some suspense and action, and middle schoolers will enjoy the younger kids standing up to older teens and operating under the noses of clueless adults.-Anthony C. Doyle, Livingston High School, CA (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Sixth-graders Mac and Vince have been running an advice and assistance service for fellow grade-school students since they were in kindergarten. Mac is a problem solver, Vince is a whiz at keeping track of the money and favors they earn, and both boys are avid Chicago Cubs fans. Their office is located in an underused school bathroom, hence this first novel's title. The business takes a beating and then so does the boys' friendship when an older kid applies muscle to the threats he has made to grade-schoolers who owe gambling debts. Rylander has created a cast of memorable and varied characters, replete with emotional as well as social lives. Mac narrates the convoluted tale with the arch flatness of a 1940s satire of the noir detective genre, so swallowing even the more preposterous coincidences is easy for the sake of the story's fun. An excellent boy book that would do well in a father-son book discussion.--Goldsmith, Francisca Copyright 2010 Booklist



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