Anyone who knows me knows that Gary Paulsen is one of my all-time Rock Stars of Literature. Recently, I have been trying to catch up on his latest novels for young people. Luckily, Masters of Disaster and Liar, Liar were typically quick reads.
In Masters of Disaster, twelve-year-old Henry enlists his two best friends to “Undertake and Implement a Series of Daring Experiences and Grand Adventures” that will “Prove Our Manhood and Show us What We’re Made Of.” Henry will be the planner, the one who will develop the "Daring Experiences." Riley is the meticulous chronicler, recording all details for posterity. Which leaves Reed as the hapless hero/victim who must actually complete the tasks, almost every one of which results in his having an intimate encounter with poop.
With short and well-written chapters, this book will have enormous appeal to middle-school boys who will likely laugh out loud even as they wonder how difficult it might be to replicate some of the adventures undertaken by the trio of friends.
The second Paulsen book I just finished is Liar, Liar: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Deception. Eighth-grader Kevin is a brilliant liar. He doesn't lie to manipulate or hurt - rather, he sees it as common sense, a way to make life a little easier for everyone, including himself. As long as he sticks to his first rule, "Keep it simple," all should be well.
Before long, though, Kevin's lies start to spiral out of control. His lie to his classmate causes more work at school. His lies at home cause unrest between his siblings. His lies to his best friend may cost him the friendship. It isn't until he is babysitting one night that Kevin realizes he is facing his biggest challenge yet - telling the truth.
Less silly than Masters of Disaster, Liar, Liar is a sweeter yet still funny book about family, friends and the importance of honesty. "The truth really does set you free," Kevn discovers. "Who knew? Well, everyone, I guess, except me."
LOVE Gary Paulsen. Hope to have more of his recent books to review soon!