Big Mouth

Big Mouth

4.7 4
by Deborah Halverson

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FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD SHERMIE THUFF is a Big Guy with a Big Dream— to become the most famous competitive eater in the world. But every big dream has to start somewhere, and Shermie’s determined to start his in the spotlight. If he can take first place in Nathan’s World Famous International hot dog eating competition, fame will be his. The catch? The… See more details below


FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD SHERMIE THUFF is a Big Guy with a Big Dream— to become the most famous competitive eater in the world. But every big dream has to start somewhere, and Shermie’s determined to start his in the spotlight. If he can take first place in Nathan’s World Famous International hot dog eating competition, fame will be his. The catch? The current record is 53-1/2 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes. Shermie’s personal best? Seven. Clearly, Shermie has some training to do. . . . Only, no matter how hard he tries, he can’t get past nine measly wieners. Then, just when Shermie’s about to crack under the pressure, he gets his biggest shake-up of all: news that the 53-1/2 record holder is an itty-bitty, 130-pound guy. So Shermie vows to lose his restrictive Fat Belt the only way he knows how—with the help of Gardo, a weight-cutting fanatic determined to turn Big Shermie into a lean, mean eating-machine.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

"Reversal," what 14-year-old Sherman Thuff calls vomiting, plays a major role in this attenuated story about a boy who plans to become "the fastest, richest, most famous competitive eater in the world"-an ambition born of watching "The Glutton Bowl" on TV. Setting his sights on a July 4th hot-dog eating contest, Shermie enlists his friends as trainers, then engages in a cycle of gorging and "reversals" that come in for prodigiously detailed descriptions. Conveniently, Shermie's science teacher assigns an experiment that familiarizes him with butyric acid, which smells like "vomit. Puke. Throw-up," a passage typical of the sensibility at work. Other ham-handed scenes at Del Heiny Junior High, named for the ketchup manufacturer that serves as its corporate sponsor, revolve around attacks by anonymous "Mustard Taggers." Halverson (Honk if You Hate Me) tries to build up the mystery of who's behind the mustard revolt but the absurdity of this ketchup vs. mustard feud fizzles any real tension. By the time she rolls around to her point, that boys suffer from eating disorders, too, the audience may have checked out. Ages 10-up. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Jean Boreen
Sherman Thuff likes to eat and actually thinks that he is pretty good at it, so good that he decides that he is going to become a champion speed-eater. With his friends Lucy and Gardo in support of his goal, Sherman begins to train for his career; however, when he starts vomiting the food back up shortly after speed eating it, he knows that he has a problem. Lucy, unaware of the vomiting, creates a healthy training plan for Shermie, but he consistently mishandles it, causing Lucy to question his determination and his commitment to becoming healthy enough to be a speed-eater (Shermie is quite heavy and Lucy's research indicates that skinnier speed-eaters actually are more successful than overweight ones). Shermie turns to Gardo, a wrestler who has become much too good at dropping weight quickly in anticipation of wrestling matches, and Gardo creates an exercise and eating routine for Sherman that wreaks further havoc on Shermie's body. Sherman is able to ignore much of it until the day he realizes that he can make himself purge and then begins to see what Gardo is doing in a much different light. Turning to Ms. Maxwell, his science teacher, Sherman looks for a way to help himself and Gardo. The issue of food disorders in teens is an important one and this book does a solid job of making the point that it is not just girls who abuse their bodies and health in the name of beauty or looks; boys are capable of making some of the same choices, often using sports as an excuse for extreme behaviors. This book is a necessary addition to middle and high school libraries. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D.
School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up

By day, chunky 14-year-old Shermie Thuff works in his grandfather's ice-cream parlor, but at night he dreams of reaching competitive-eating stardom. Only thing is, he can't handle more than 10 hot dogs before he barfs, literally. To break the record, he deduces he's got to lose weight fast, so he enlists his friend Gardo, a member of the school wrestling team, to help him drop the pounds. The story is a subtle cautionary oddity that's probably too long for its own good, and has a niche audience, particularly with the competitive-eating theme. On a broader scale, it's a story of a young sportsman with an eating disorder, which is a rare find in teen fiction. The only trouble is that the plot is probably much too winding to reach this audience, and, instead, will likely find its place among a much younger crowd, who may or may not be patient enough to sit through Shermie's huffing-and-puffing inner dialogue. The gross-out factor promises plenty of puke, however, and that may be enough in itself to hook readers.-Hillias J. Martin, New York Public Library

Kirkus Reviews
This comic romp about eating disorders provides more bodily functions than functional solutions. Fourteen-year-old Shermie Thuff aims to become a world-famous competitive eater with the slogan, "Are YOU Thuff Enuff?" The problem is, he can only eat (at most) 18 hot dogs-and not quickly enough-and he always vomits afterwards, an event Halverson describes graphically. A friend suggests that Shermie lose his "Belt of Fat," so he hires wrestler Gardo as his weight-loss coach. Together, the two starve and drastically dehydrate themselves, Shermie balking only when Gardo spits into a cup all day long to expel fluids. School-sponsor Del Heiny Ketchup permits only "ketchup-dunkable" foods in the cafeteria; a campy guerrilla counter-campaign for mustard keeps the tone casual, but the bingeing and purging are severe. Shermie's desire to eat competitively never quite rings true, while Halverson's facile solutions for eating disorders are oversimplified. This puke-focused foodie offering will please mostly the gross-out crowd. (author's note) (Fiction. 11-14)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
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Random House
File size:
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Age Range:
10 Years

Read an Excerpt


My eyeballs bulged. Tears blasted like water rockets. Blood flooded every cell in my face—a good thing, because the blood-bloated sockets were the only things holding in my eyeballs.


Another brutal barf. This time, puke spewed through my mouth and nose. My guts blasted into my head.

Panting, I slumped to the floor and rested my throbbing head against the toilet seat. One more heave like that and my skull would explode, I just knew it. My throat and nostrils burned from the acidy vomit, my ribs ached as each sour breath filled the room with the nasty, unmistakable smell of—


Aw, man, what is that? My spleen? I sagged to the floor again. This wasn’t right. Food was supposed to go down your throat, not up. I should know, I’d just wolfed down ten hot dogs and buns in twelve minutes flat.


Now those dogs were coming up in twelve seconds flat.

I stayed on my knees, hugging the bowl. My puffy, leaky head drooped forward. The view was disgusting. Yellow corn from last night’s dinner dotted the beefy muck, and bits of ketchup-pinked bun bobbed on the tide. My toilet looked like a salsa bowl.

I lurched forward, nearly losing it again.

I swear, from now on, I fast the day before I gorge. The key to effective training was strategy, and I had to learn from my mistakes—

Aaaa . . . Aaaa . . .


Wait, Shermie, wait. . . .

Still nothing. Oh, thank you, dear God of Regurgitation: my first dry heave. The worst was over. A few more dry heaves, then I stood, wobbly but upright, and flushed.

Next time, eleven hot dogs in twelve minutes, I just knew it.


Puking made me late for my shift at Grampy’s shop. Located at the edge of the food court on level seven, Scoops-a-Million was the only ice cream shop in the whole mall. There were three Mexican restaurants, two smoothie counters, and five different pizza joints, but only one of us. Grampy scored this sweet deal because he was the last holdout from the crumbling strip mall they demolished to build Mid-Cal County Fair Mall. The mall management even threw in a giant neon sign with exhaust ports in the middle of each o. So from ten to ten each day, the Scoops-a-Million o’s burped out mouthwatering wisps of sugared cream, rich clouds of chocolate, and the sweet vanilla of waffle cones baked to a golden brown. The aroma worked on shoppers like a watch swinging on a chain. I swear, my Grampy could talk a goldfish out of his bowl.

Wheezing and sweaty from pedaling through the park like a crazed psycho, I finally stumbled through the Scoops doorway and found Arthur pacing behind the sherbet counter. His rheumy eyes zeroed in on me. Hissing like a cornered cat, the old guy started hucking things my way. I ducked the fudge-dipped waffle cone, but a juicy maraschino cherry plunked me in the left eyelid.

Great, the shrunken geezer had seventy years to my fourteen, but even he could throw better than I could. Not that I was a small target.

“It’s three-twenty-two,” Arthur crabbed. He was standing in front of the huge smiling sun mural on the back wall. He wasn’t smiling, though, and he certainly wasn’t sunny. “Goldanged kids. No respect for anybody but yourselves. I got me a life, too, Sherman Thuff. You think being fourteen makes you the big enchilada? I got things to do, too. Places to go, people to see. If I had my way, every crummy one of you . . .”

I tuned him out. There weren’t any customers in the ice cream shop to be offended by his cranking, and I’d stopped paying attention to him months ago. Arthur was a nasty old prune. I knew that anything I said would only rile him up more. If only he’d quit. Why he was slaving in an ice cream shop when he could be hucking bingo chips at attendants in a cozy nursing home was beyond me.

I wiped red syrup out of my eyebrow with my Windbreaker sleeve, then reached out to lift the hatch in the metal countertop—


I yanked my hand back and shook it. That was the third time I’d been shocked today. Stupid dry wind. This weird weather front was supposed to last through Halloween, maybe longer, but I didn’t know if I’d survive that long. I had more charge in my fingertips than Darth Vader had stormtroopers.

Ever . . . so . . . carefully . . . I reached out a second time and—

“Ow!” A cherry had thumped my right earlobe. “Dang it, Arthur!”

I wiped my other sleeve across my ear then checked my reflection in the raised hatch to see if any red gloop had splooged into my hair. Nope, no gloop. But, man, those were some electrified blond needles. I was Woodstock from Peanuts.

I spit into my palms and patted down the frizz. Globby spit hair was better than frizzy static hair. People would just think I moussed.

Sucking in my stomach, I squeezed through the opening, pulled my bike through to stash behind the counter, then genntly lowered the metal slab back down. Arthur liked to let it slam down. He knew the tinny sound it made worked on me like a rake dragged across concrete. I’d rather chew aluminum foil than hear either one of those noises.

From the Hardcover edition.

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