<em>Free Thaddeus</em> by John Gosselink
In the spirit of Middle Grade Monday, today's recommendation is a middle-grade read aimed squarely at reluctant boy readers between ages 9 and 13. Meet Thaddeus Ledbetter. He's a too-smart-for-his-own-good seventh-grader who through no fault of his own (or so he claims) has ended up stuck in in-school suspension for the remainder of the school year. You see, Thaddeus has all the answers, and he'll happily tell you how to do just about anything in a better or more efficient way. Unfortunately for Thaddeus, these suggestions for "improvement" tend to backfire, and usually land Thaddeus in trouble. Thaddeus is the kind of kid that completely exasperates adults, and makes kids cheer. In fact, not only do his classmates cheer for him, but they begin a movement to "free Thaddeus", which spreads through the school like wildfire. The format of the novel is quite original, and is presented in the form of a case file, prepared by none other than Thaddeus, who is mounting his defence. The file consists of discipline referral forms, diagrams, letters and pictures, and Thaddeus fun facts, which cover just about everything under the sun. Masterfully executed, this novel offers perfect insight into the mind of a middle-school boy. It's like Wimpy Kid meets the Great Brain, and it's absolutely one of the funniest things I've ever read. It's laugh-out-loud funny, it's clever, and will resonate with anyone who has ever known a Thaddeus.
Rachel Seigel is the Children's/Young Adult Book Buyer at wholesaler S&B Books in Mississauga, Ontario. She also maintains a personal blog at http://readingtimbits.blogspot.com and can be found on Twitter as @rachelnseigel.