The Fourth Stall first showed up on my radar over a year ago while I was reading the bios of the Tenners - the debut authors of 2010. Chris Rylander was writing a book I wanted to read - it's like The Godfather in Middle School? Count me in! I contacted the author, who told me the book was pushed and wouldn't release until 2011. It felt like SO long to wait. Imagine how excited I was when Walden Pond Press sent me the book!
My only problem was keeping The 8 Year Old's hands off until I could finish it. What's not to love about this cover? It screams BOY BOOK! And as the mother of an avid reader, I can assure you, this is not an easy audience to hook, but Chris Rylander nailed it.
Christian Barrett, known as "Mac", is the main character and the anchor of the story. The 6th grader runs a business out of the fourth stall of the East Wing boys' bathroom. He does small favors like doctor's notes, late passes, and forging parents' signatures on report cards. Mac either gets money or another favor in return.
Vince is Mac's business partner and best friend. Vince runs the books and makes sure that they have the cash available, so when the Cubs get to the World Series, they are ready to get prime seats, snacks, souveiniers, the works!
These two clever guys are just the beginning of a hilarious, memorable and well-developed cast of characters. (Kitten was my favorite supporting character - what does this say about me?!?)
One day, trouble walks into the East Wing. Fred, a 3rd grader, comes in asking for protection from Staples, a legendary bully and head of a gambling operation. Mac and Staples are immediately thrust into what can be described as a turf war. Mac can't have Staples terrorizing the kids in his middle school - it's not right, and it's bad for business.
"Now, you have to understand, I'm not usually afraid of much. I own this school. But if all the rumors about Staples are true, then we were dealing with one dangerous guy."
What happens next is full of twists and turns, good guys and bad guys, and more than a few punches are thrown.
There are some heart-pounding scenes, and with the turn of a page, you can't be sure who Mac can trust!
The only downside for me was the fighting and bookmaking. This stuff happens in middle schools, I know, I went to middle school! Bookmaking could have been on the curriculum at my Jr. High. But I'm a mom. A boy's first fight is probably a right of passage, and I'm powerless to stop it in real life, but I cringed when I read it. I may hide this one from The 8 Year Old for another year (The Man is going to argue with me on this, I'm sure). On the up side, I cringed when I read it, in a good way. Chris Rylander made his readers feel the pain - both physically and emotionally - of his characters. His talent for getting into the heart and mind of Mac seeps through the pages.
Don't worry, for every scene I cringed, there were ten others that made me laugh out loud!
Well written, exciting, suspenseful, and a lot of fun! The Fourth Stall was well worth the wait!
I know Chris is working on a sequel to The Fourth Stall. I don't have any information on it yet, but when I do, I'll be sure to share it with you!
Chris Rylander website
Harper Collins - The Fourth Stall
Walden Pond Press
About the Book:
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Walden Pond Press (February 8, 2011)
About the Author:
This is Chris Rylander's first book for children. A lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, he lives in Fargo, North Dakota.
Chris Rylander is currently on a blog tour and will stop by Alison's Book Marks on Wednesday. For a full list of the tour stops, please visit http://www.waldenpondpress.blogspot.com/
*Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.
Shop Indie Bookstores