From the Publisher
Pitchford's debut for kids is sure to be a big hit with readers. -Kirkus Reviews
In this debut novel from song- and screenwriter Pitchford, a boy relates the sometimes funny, sometimes moving story of how he planned his 10th birthday party. The thought of having a party had not occurred to narrator Charley until he gets a card from his father (who left home three years earlier) asking, "What are you going to do on your big day?" Fearful that he has too much in common with his loner neighbor Garry (the boy refers to them as "two friendless freaks"), Charley vows "to throw the best party—in the history—oftheworld!" He organizes his plans into a Birthday Notebook, and entry #1 reads, "Make friends." Ironically, the lad does befriend Garry, who used to create special effects for movies and now spends his days making body parts out of latex in his garage. Charley, a devoted fan of Monsters & Maniacsmagazine, decides to throw a horror-themed party, an idea his so-called friends at school think is cool. Just when it looks like Charley's big day is doomed, Garry comes to the rescue, in a riotous scene that calls upon the man's expertise. Pitchford develops likable, believable lead characters (Charley's beleaguered mother and caustic older sister play strong supporting roles), but some of Charley's peers act and speak in voices that seem older than those of 10-year-olds (e.g., at the start of the party, the class bully announces, "I've been to bar mitzvahs that were scarier"). Overall, however, this is entertaining fare. Ages 8-up. (Mar.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Heidi Hauser Green
The birthday card that Charley Maplewood receives from his father is the impetus for what is sure to be an unforgettable celebration! Arriving a month early, the card is wrong in one regard: It wishes Charley a happy eleventh birthday. (He will be turning ten.) But it is right in another. The handwritten note asks Charlie a very important question: "What are you going to do for your big day?" In truth, Charlie had never considered it his "big day," and he had no plans. His dad's pointed (albeit mistimed) question, however, causes the boy to think about the possibilities and to begin planning his own party. One thing leads to another, and Charlie's "House of Horrors" party becomes the neighborhood sensation in completely unexpected ways that are, at the same time, worse and better than he could have hoped. Sound complicated? It is. That is appropriate, since Charlie is, too. A comic book fanatic (Monsters and Maniacs, specifically) and master chef, Charlie is a serious, lonely boy. His story chronicles not only the planning of his party, but his experience in learning how to make (and be) a friend. Dean Pitchford's novel is outrageous, unbelievable, and incredibly satisfying. Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green
School Library Journal
Charley is a master cook, a comic-book maniac, and a basically friendless nine-year-old. When his father sends him an early birthday gift and inquires how he is going to celebrate his big day, Charley is inspired to throw a party. The ensuing story chronicles his attempt to determine a theme, bake a cake, and make enough friends to have a gathering worthy of turning 10. The fast-paced plot will keep readers involved to the end. The novel is peopled with a host of unique characters including a mysterious neighbor, Charley's mother's seedy boyfriend, and an older sister obsessed with working at a fried chicken fast-food restaurant. Readers will enjoy the gross-out details and embarrassing situations in which Charley finds himself during his quest for a successful celebration. The author does a wonderful job of crafting the boy's character within the strange and bizarre events leading up to the satisfying conclusion. It's often very funny, but it's also poignant as Charley's loneliness and cluelessness about how to make a friend are clearly evident. This novel would be especially effective for a class read-aloud or as a choice for reluctant readers.
Melissa Christy BuronCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Charley is about to turn the big one-oh and wants to have a birthday party in celebration. However, he runs into a few snags along the way. First, a party needs a theme. Second, a party needs fun activities. Most important, a party requires friends, something that Charley does not really have. However, Charley is nothing if not resourceful and sets about accomplishing his goals in a methodical if unorthodox way. He ends up with an unlikely group of kids at his house and a lousy party until his next-door-neighbor/movie-special-effects whiz Garry takes Charley's "scary party" theme to a new level of terror. In fact, the party is so successful that the class bully needs a fresh pair of underwear, and Charley has made a bunch of friends. Actor/songwriter Pitchford's debut for kids is sure to be a big hit with readers. His characters are realistic, situations funny and the exaggerated plot somehow believable. For those who want to be grossed out and especially for reluctant readers, this succeeds brilliantly. (Fiction. 10-13)