Review: Cheesie Mack is Not a Genius or Anything by Steve Cotler

At our last Father/Son Bookclub the boys chose Diary of a Wimpykid: Dog Days and absolutely loved it. Since it was my turn as the moderator to choose the next book, I wanted a read-alike that would appeal to my grade 4-5 boys. I selected the junior fiction book, Cheesie Mack is Not a Genius or Anything by Steve Cotler after reading some positive reviews.

The humorous book was about Ronald ‘Cheesie’ Mack retelling the crazy events leading up to his grade five graduation. Cheesie began with Chapter 0 (The Story is Over!) where he informed readers that the story was about a “mysterious old coin, an evil sister, a dead sister, runaway rodents, a super-best friend, a fifth-grade graduation disaster, some really unusual words… and The Haunted Toad (pg1).” Sounds awesome, right?

Well it was… yet I am still so incredibly peeved at the amount of times the CheesieMack website was promoted that I find this review difficult to write. It seemed like every page had ‘if you like this or have something to add… please go to my website and let me know!’  Ughh- I just wanted to scream, enough already! We get it!  I’m sure there could have been an equally effective way of promoting the website without having it so ‘in your face’. I can’t wait to talk to the boys to see if they were equally annoyed and if any actually checked out the website while reading the book. 

Despite this SUPUGE (SUPER-HUGE) annoyance, the book did have some redeeming qualities:

-Cheesie’s voice as a tween boy is believable. I liked the character of Cheesie, especially when he was forced to make a tough decision that had the potential to affect his friendship with his best friend, Georgie. His family relationships were also fun to read about. I was amused by the ongoing secret point battle he had with his sister. Cheesie created a point rating scale and would designate points for whoever made better insults, got the other in trouble, etc.  I wonder what my score would be with my siblings…

-As a librarian, I love when a book teaches readers new vocabulary words in an interesting way. When Cheesie added and defined new words, it never felt forced. 

-Tween boys will enjoy this book.  The storyline was fun and humourous (such as Cheesie’s invented words like scoogled- scoot and wiggle). Another aspect that will appeal to boys was the addition of several visuals, including black and white illustrations and lists. When Cheesie used lists and bulleted points, it added a visual element that changed up the words from the standard text.

While Cheesie Mack is no Wimpy Kid, I think it will satisfy its target audience. Those that loved the book will be happy to know that Cheesie Mack is being turned into a series, with the second book, ‘Cheesie Mack is Cool in a Duel’ to be released June 2012. For those that can simply not wait for the next release, you can always check out the CheesyMack website! HA!

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