The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander (2008)

fourthThis funny middle grade school story parodies The Godfather.

Recommended grade level: 4-6

Pages: 314 (for ISBN 9780061994968)

Genre(s) and keywords: humor, mystery

Tone/Style: humorous

Pace: moderate

Topics: kid-run businesses, bullies, gambling

Themes: helping others, trust in friendships

Summary: Do you need something? Mac can get it for you. It’s what he does—he and his best friend and business manager, Vince. Their methods might sometimes run afoul of the law—or at least the school code of conduct—but if you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can pay him, Mac is on your side. His office is located in the east wing boys’ bathroom, fourth stall from the high window. And business is booming.

Or at least it was until this particular Monday. It starts with a third grader in need of protection. And before this ordeal is over, it’s going to involve a legendary high school crime boss named Staples, an intramural gambling ring, a graffiti ninja, the nine most dangerous bullies in school, and the first Chicago Cubs World Series game in almost seventy years. And that’s just the beginning. Mac and Vince soon realize that the trouble with solving everyone else’s problems is that there’s no one left to solve yours.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid meets The Sopranos in this laugh-a-minute mystery from an exciting new talent.” (Source)

Who will like this book?: This is a welcome title in the ever in-demand supply of humorous, (somewhat) realistic fiction with broad appeal for upper grade boys. This is a great choice for the boy who answers “I don’t know” when you ask what sort of books he likes.

Who won’t like this book?: There are few girl characters in this book, which may turn off some female readers. The moderate pace may or may not work for reluctant readers, depending on whether the humor hits home. Most kids will probably miss the parody elements.

Other comments: Full disclosure: I know basically zero about the Mafioso media this book parodies.

 Sequel(s): The Fourth Stall Part II (2012), The Fourth Stall Part III (2013)

Readalikes: The Heartbreak Messenger by Alexander Vance is another school story about a semi-legitimate middle-schooler-run business that leads to mishap. For older readers interested in the thriller-type aspect of the story, try The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson. For goofy hijinks, The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry is a good choice.

-Kylie Peters

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