Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review: Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger

Fake Mustache. by Tom Angleberger. April 1, 2012. Amulet Books. 208 pages. ISBN: 9781419701

From the author of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and Darth Paper Strikes Back comes an even stranger story. Fake Mustache is, as the subtitle tell us, the story of “How Jodie O'Rodeo and Her Wonder Horse (and Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind.” “Some Nerdy Kid” is Lenny Flem, Jr., the main character of the story, whose best friend, Casper, buys a fake mustache and uses it to brainwash the entire country into committing robberies, allowing him to buy a company, and permitting him to run for president. Only Lenny, who knows the mustache is fake because he watched Casper buy it, is immune to the brainwashing, but Casper knows he’s onto him and will stop at nothing to keep him from foiling Casper’s plans for world domination. With the help of TV star Jodie O’Rodeo, Lenny must find a way to escape the henchmen Casper has on his tail and unmask his friend as the fraud he really is.

Though Tom Angleberger seems to share a similar sense of humor with authors like Andrew Clements and Louis Sachar, this book is by far the most surreal and unusual any of the three has written. The Origami Yoda books dabble in the bizarre, but stick mostly to realism. This book deviates from reality almost immediately and just keeps revealing new layers of wackiness. And it is fantastic. Lenny is the ultimate underdog, forced to become a hero by virtue of the fact that everyone else around him has been brainwashed. Jodie O’Rodeo is instantly recognizable as a take-off on the plethora of Disney channel personalities, especially Hannah Montana, but she’s more than just a pretty face, even if there is a tiny hint of romance between her and Lenny. Ultimately, what works the best is the fact that every aspect of this story is driven by the actions of kids. The villain and heroes are all kids, and adults become victims and pawns in Casper’s plot, but they’re no help at all when it comes to saving the day. Sometimes the absence of adults in children’s books can be annoying, especially when it becomes an obvious gimmick to further the plot, but in this case, the lack of adult involvement serves to empower Lenny, who might otherwise never have the chance to become a hero.

This book is sure to be a hit with kids who have enjoyed the Origami Yoda books, and those who like their reading material to make them laugh. It’s also kind of a fun tie-in for the upcoming Presidential election, even if doesn’t have much to do with the actual election process. The short chapters will help even reluctant readers stick with the story, and I think girls and boys will both find plenty to enjoy as the adventure unfolds. But, as Levar Burton always said, you don’t have to take my word for it. Colby Sharp has compiled a list of his students’ responses to the book over at his blog. Judging from these responses, it looks like another hit for Tom Angleberger! I recommend borrowing this zany book from your local library as soon as possible. In the meantime, check out the trailer below for a sneak peek:

I borrowed Fake Mustache from my local public library. 

For more about this book, visit Goodreads and Worldcat


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