by Bill Harley & Adam Gustavson, illustrator
Peachtree Publishers 3/01/2014
Age 7 to 10 167 pages
“Charlie Bumpers has his heart set on playing the role of the evil Sorcerer in the fourth grade play. He’s even got the laugh down pat: Mwa-ha-ha-ha! But his dreams of villainous stardom go up in smoke when he finds out that Mrs. Burke has cast him as the Nice Gnome! Determined to rectify this terrible injustice, Charlie concocts one plan after another, but nothing seems to work.
“To make matters worse, his dad has assigned chores to all the kids in the family and Charlie’s job is walking Ginger – the diggiest, sniffiest, and poopiest dog in the universe. Can Charlie deal with these challenges without causing havoc all around him?”
“Are you ready, thespians?” Mrs. Burke asked. “Are your desks cleared?”
Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome is the second book in this early reader series. The first was Charlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year, who happened to be Mrs. Burke. This time around Mrs. Burke’s Empire—her term—will be acting out a play for parents and others . . . at night! Since Mrs. Burke read The Sorcerer’s Castle t the class, Charlie has been set on playing Kragon, the evil sorcerer. Kragon has the best line in the whole play.
“You horrible people! My plans are ruined! My dreams are ruined! I am ruined!”
Mrs. Burke handed out the scripts. At the top was your role. Charlie couldn’t believe his eyes. Mrs. Burke gave him the role of The Nice Gnome. Charlie would rather be on the stage crew and move sets around than be The Nice Gnome. The problem, as Charlie saw it, The Nice Gnome was ridiculously nice and Charlie does not want to be a nice guy. He did not want anyone laughing at him. He had to get out of this role.
Charlie has a dilemma. Playing The Nice Gnome in Mrs. Burke’s fourth grade class play would be horrible. He tries to ask for a new part. Charlie even tries rewriting his role. Just as in book one, Charlie must somehow make it through Mrs. Burke. Last time he was afraid she would remember the shoe that almost hit her. Now, he must face her about a terrible part. Mrs. Burke is the perfect character to deal with Charlie’s angst. She is stern, maybe a little too stern, but tempers this with kindness that the kids rarely see. Mrs. Burke is a good teacher and a good role model. She also reminds me of most every elementary teacher I ever had. Except for maybe her exploding fingers that get everyone’s immediate attention.
Charlie also has some aggravation at home. Charlie thinks it is unfair that his job means walking Ginger first thing after school, while older brother Matt can read a video game magazine. Little sister Mabel—AKA Squid—wants to walk Ginger but is too young and unable to control the dog. Matt refuses to help or switch jobs with Charlie, but he does make a point of reminding him to walk the dog. The three siblings are realistic in their attitudes toward one another. They pick on and at each other, but run to the rescue if someone else picks on them.
The actual play is OOOOOOOOOOthe best part of the story, as it should be. At times silly and then hilarious, Charlie comes to an understanding about The Nice Gnome and Mrs. Burke. Charlie’s part has him on stage as Samantha Grunsky’s helper. Samantha is bossy and a know-it-all, and she sits in the chair behind Charlie. Charlie’s best friend, Tommy, has the other fourth grade teacher.
I enjoyed Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome. The story is a fast read, due mainly to my refusing to stop turning pages. Getting to the play was worth the wait. Kids will enjoy Charlie and will be able to identify with him. Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome has several scenes kids will find hilarious such as Charlie dealing with a neighbor woman whose lawn Ginger prefers to use for “his business.” The illustrations wonderfully capture Charlie’s fourth grade frustrations. Included are the first six pages to the next book in the series: Charlie Bumpers vs. the Squeaking Skull.
CHARLIE BUMPERS VS. THE REALLY NICE GNOME. Text copyright © 2014 by Bill Harley. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Adam Gustavson. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Peachtree Publishers, Atlanta, GA.
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