Sunday, August 26, 2007
The Manny Files
Christian Burch's juvenile book, The Manny Files, is targeted for an audience of nine to twelve-year-olds, but I have a problem with that. I don't think most children that age would appreciate the humor, the relationship between the manny and Uncle Max, or even Keats Dalinger. Since Keats is in third grade when the book starts, I don't know how many children past third grade will want to read the book, and most third graders would find the book beyond them. I don't think many young people would care about the Birthday Biographies. That said, for an adult, this is a charming, wonderful book.
Keats Dalinger is the narrator. He's the third child in a family of girls, and the smallest in the third grade. His oldest sister, Lulu, is in seventh grade, and he finds her intimidating. His sister, India, is only a year older than him, but they get along fine. She's the creative one in the family. His youngest sister, Belly, is only three, and she likes to go naked. The family has gone through a number of nannies, and then a man shows up. Lulu immediately dislikes the manny, and starts to keep "The Manny Files," her complaints about his actions.
Keats adores the manny. He's funny, and outrageous. He packs Keats' lunch with a coconut that has on it, "Be interesting." Despite Keats' problems at school, with a bully, and his teacher, the manny shows him how to handle his life with laughter. And the manny is thoughtful and charming, to Keats' teachers, the bus driver, and the family's grandmother, who comes to live with them.
This book had more funny scenes that most books. The manny always encouraged Keats and his grandmother to be outrageous. Here's just one scene, from page 192. 'When the doctor came into Grandma's room, she was lying in her bed wearing a pair of light blue hospital scrubs. She had a butter knife and fork in her hands and a surgeon's mask over her mouth. I had a shower cap on my head and looked like a nurse. The manny was sprawled out on the floor, pretending to be dead.
'Grandma said, "I did all I could, but I am afraid that I just couldn't save him. All I could do was butter him with this cholesterol-free spread."
'She waved the butter knife in the air.
'The doctor laughed and said, "I see that it might be time to move you to the psychiatric ward. You could all share a room."
"I could be like One Flew over the cuckoo's Nest," said the manny, "and Grandma could throw a drinking fountain through the window and we could escape."'
I loved this scene, and earlier ones. I just don't see most young people understanding some of the humor. And, I'd be careful in giving the book to children without their parents' reading it, since it's obvious to an adult that the manny and Uncle Max are gay.
How was the book? Terrific. I loved it, and I'd recommend it for adult readers.
The Manny Files by Christian Burch. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, ©2006. ISBN 9781416900399 (hardcover), 296p.