Monday, November 7, 2011

Gary Paulsen: Not Just A Hatchet Man

Introducing Two Books by Gary Paulsen:

Liar, Liar: The Theory, Practice, and Destructive Properties of Deception
(Wendy Lamb Books, 2011) Nominated for The Cybils by Mary McKenna Siddals. (All opinions are my own and are not meant to reflect the opinions of the entire judging panel.)

Story: Kevin doesn't mean to make trouble when he lies. He's just really good at it, and it makes life so much easier. But as his lies pile up, he finds himself in big—and funny—trouble with his friends, family, and teachers. He's got to find a way to end his lying streak—forever.


Flat Broke: The Theory, Practice, and Destructive Properties of Greed
(Wendy Lamb Books, 2011) Nominated for the Cybils by Kristy.

Story: Kevin struggled to overcome his knack for lying in Liar, Liar, and now he's back for another round of mayhem and misunderstandings in this financial comedy of errors. In Kevin, Gary Paulsen has created an appealing teen boy character who is just as human and fallible as his readers.

The Mafioso's Take: Gary Paulsen could write a shopping list on the back of a brown paper bag, and I'd still pay good money to read it. He has incredible range--from Hatchet to Harris and Me--and these two slim volumes didn't disappoint.

The covers, however, might suggest they are for younger readers. They are not. Kevin, the MC, is an 8th-grader, besotted by The World's Most Beautiful Girl, Tina Zabinski. In order to show Tina he's date-worthy, Kevin concocts all kinds of schemes. In Liar, Liar it's all a web of lies. In Flat Broke, he starts a house-cleaning business, a baking business, and runs several poker games. Kevin's voice is exuberant, and he bases all his strategies on his reading of military campaigns and business books. Of course we readers know he's going to come a cropper, which is part of the fun.

Kevin has a family which is intact, yet flawed, and a best friend, JonPaul, who is a germaphobe jock (funny, even though it stretches credulity.) Kevin also babysits a four-year-old called Markie who calls Kevin "Dutchdeefuddy" which means "best most favorite buddy in the world forever." It's touches like this that make this an ultimately heart-warming series.

Highly recommended for 5th grade on up. (These would be great titles for reluctant boy readers in the middle grades, too.)

For other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday reviews, please see the excellent bloggers on my sidebar. Happy Reading!


  1. I would have thought he's younger from the covers. Thanks for sharing. Sounds like good books I need to check out.

  2. I agree with Natalie about the covers. Thanks for clearing that up. I have to say that these sound fascinating. *adding to TBR list*

  3. Thanks for these recommends! And on this :

    "Gary Paulsen could write a shopping list on the back of a brown paper bag, and I'd still pay good money to read it."

    Yes, yes and yes.

    Great post, thanks!

  4. I haven't heard of these Gary Paulsen books, and they sound like something my son would LOVE. Thank you.

  5. "Gary Paulsen could write a shopping list on the back of a brown paper bag, and I'd still pay good money to read it." I TOTALLY agree!!

    My students LOVE Gary Paulsen, especially Hatchet (LOVED your post title, btw), so I'll have to add these to my classroom library. Thanks!! :-)

  6. I love Gary Paulsen, but it IS a shame about the covers. I would have thought this kid was in grade four by the way they look.

  7. I'm with you on loving his writing. I hadn't even heard of these, so thanks for the recommendation!

  8. I've shelved these books numerous times but never read them, so thanks for alerting me to how funny they are. HATCHET is one of my favorite books of all time, and I've read quite a few others by Gary Paulsen, but I haven't cracked these open yet. They sound so different from NOTES FROM THE DOG (sad book about a neighbor with cancer), which was the last Paulsen I read.

  9. How ironic to read this post today . . . I just got those books in and was just this last period at school recommending them to a couple of reluctant reader 6th grade boys. I havent' read the books myself yet, but the jacket copy made them sound great. One of the boys checked out Liar, Liar so I'll be interested to hear how he liked it.

  10. Great picks. I'm drooling over them.

  11. Gary Paulsen could READ a shopping list off the back of a brown paper bag, and I'd pay good money to hear it.

    He was a keynote at SCBWI this year and, of course, the only thing of his I had read was Hatchet. I've wanted to read more, thanks for the reminder.

    If anyone EVER gets a chance to hear him speak, RUN, don't walk. (well, okay, you can walk fast for safety) He has had the most incredible life and knows how to tell a story.

  12. Crush comes out in the spring. I'm actually not a huge Paulsen fan (The Island, anyone?) and was surprised at how good his humor was. never n the shelf in my middle school. Even the 8th graders like the covers, although I did have my concerns.


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