Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Planet Girl (Charlie Joe Jackson Series #5)by Tommy Greenwald, J. P. Coovert (Illustrator)
There's a crisis at Eastport Middle School! It appears that everyone has a boyfriend or girlfriend except . . . Charlie Joe Jackson??!? Yup-he's the only single guy out of all his friends. How is this possible? Even Pete Milano snagged a girl! Well, Charlie Joe refuses to be left out. He quickly goes looking for help in the last place anyone would think to find him-the library. And what he finds is the gem of all gems, the guidebook of all guidebooks, the key to finally getting a girl! Now, everyone is suddenly coming to him for love advice. (Oh, how the tables have turned.) But Charlie Joe's world is swiftly turned upside down when he realizes the girl he actually likes... might not actually be the girl he likes.
Gr 4–6—Charlie Joe Jackson is back for his fifth appearance in this series. He still doesn't like to read books, but he has a bigger problem now; everyone in middle school has a girlfriend except him. Charlie needs some advice and his first stop is the media center where the good-natured librarian, Mrs. Reedy, offers a classic, but somewhat dated title that not only doesn't get him a girlfriend, but instead gets Charlie into more difficulties. Caught kissing his friend Jake's girlfriend by his longtime friend Katie, who he really likes, Charlie's "indiscretions" become the talk of the school. And every time Charlie attempts to right things, he only gets into more trouble…with the school principal, with the gym teacher, and his friends. Even the summer camp reunion weekend is ruined when Charlie and his camp mate get stuck in the New York Public Library archives and he delivers a reinterpreted love sonnet to Katie (Charlie Joe style) in a failed attempt to win her affection. But our romance-seeking protagonist eventually figures things out in a satisfying conclusion that will please readers. The story is funny and engaging with each chapter ending on a mild cliff-hanger that will entice reluctant readers to keep going. Interspersed with the story are romantic tips from other characters who offer further advice on how to survive "planet girl." VERDICT Fans of the series will thoroughly this enjoy this installment.—Anne Jung-Mathews, Plymouth State University, NH
Read an Excerpt
Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide To Planet Girl
By Tommy Greenwald, J.P. Coovert
Roaring Brook PressCopyright © 2015 Tommy Greenwald
All rights reserved.
I have an announcement to make: The middle school years are the best years of your life.
Oh sure, I know what some people say. They say, "Just get through middle school, and everything will get better after that."
Well, if you ask me, those people are crazy.
Listen, I get that it's not for everyone, but I happen to LOVE middle school. It's really fun. The homework is a little hard, but not ridiculously hard. The books you have to read are a little too long — five pages is too long, if you ask me — but not ridiculously long. You don't have all the crazy pressures of high school, like my older sister, Megan, does. And there's still recess! I mean, come on, people! Life is good!
Except for one problem.
I don't have a girlfriend.
Here's the thing: When kids are just starting middle school, guys and girls still haven't really figured each other out yet. At all. They circle each other, like two dogs who have just been put in the same cage together for the first time. They think they should be friends, they want to be friends, but they just don't know how to go about it yet.
But then, as middle school goes on, it starts to happen. The huge ocean between girls and guys becomes a river.
Then, a stream.
Then, a puddle.
And finally, the next thing you know, Timmy McGibney is yelling in my ear, "I have a girlfriend!"
Which is exactly what happened at lunch one day.
I looked up from my lukewarm meatball hero and snorted in Timmy's general direction. "Right." Timmy was not exactly a chick magnet. There was that one two-week period where he dated the former girl of my dreams, Hannah Spivero, which should have improved his overall status with the ladies. But sadly, he'd come up empty ever since.
"I'm serious, I do," he said, with a mouthful of ice cream sandwich on full display. "Erica Pope said yes."
"Erica Pope?" I rolled my eyes. Erica was wwwayy out of Timmy's league.
"Yup. Apparently she has a thing for lacrosse players." Timmy was my oldest, closest, and most annoying friend, but there was one thing that no one could argue about: He was by far the best lacrosse player in our grade.
"Well, I'll believe it when I see it," I said.
About eight seconds later, I saw it.
Erica came up to Timmy, gave him a big hug, then whispered, "See you after Spanish" in his ear, and ran off.
Timmy looked at me with a way-too-big smile. "Like I was saying."
I shook my head and stared into my chocolate milk. Times were definitely changing. Oh sure, Jake Katz was still going out with Hannah, and Phil Manning and Celia Barbarossa were already acting like an old married couple, but for the past year, they'd been pretty much the only real couples in the grade.
Oh, wait. I forgot about Katie and Nareem.
You know who I'm talking about, right? Katie Friedman and Nareem Ramdal were a pretty hot-and-heavy couple too there, for a while. But they broke up a few months ago. I was sad for them, but a part of me wasn't sad, because Katie's been my unofficial best friend for practically forever, and I guess I was a little jealous that she had a boyfriend. Which felt very weird at the time.
So anyway, Timmy chattered on happily about Erica for another minute. I wasn't really paying attention, though, until I heard two words I'd never heard in the same sentence before: Pete and dating.
I looked up. "What did you just say?"
"Pete's dating her best friend, and they're coming to the movies with us on Saturday night."
"Pete's dating Mareli?" I was shocked. Mareli was the girl who had moved from Puerto Rico around a year ago. She was a really sharp dresser. According to Eliza Collins, she had the most amazing earring collection of anyone in the school — and she seemed way too sophisticated for Pete Milano. Actually, now that I think about it, a warthog is too sophisticated for Pete Milano.
"Mareli likes Pete," Timmy confirmed. "She thinks he's really funny. And she thinks it's really cool that his family keeps chickens." It was true. Pete's family had been raising chickens ever since I'd known him. According to him, the eggs were delicious. "And they make great pets," he'd say. "Although they don't play fetch or anything."
But back to the matter at hand. "So they're going out?" I asked Timmy.
"Yup," he said. "He asked her out today."
Pete always had a lot of guts — I'll give him that.
"So do you want to come?" Timmy added.
I blinked. "Huh? Come where?"
"To the movies. A lot of us are going."
Timmy smiled, as if he knew what he was about to say would annoy me, which it did. "Oh, Hannah and Jake, Phil and Celia, Pete and Mareli, Erica and me, and I think Katie and Nareem even though they're not going out anymore, and I think that new kid Emory is going to ask Eliza."
"Emory? No way." Things were getting weirder and weirder. Eliza Collins was the golden girl of Eastport Middle School, and no one had ever had the nerve to ask her out. Now some new kid was going to do it?
"Yes way. Emory is from California," Timmy added, as if that explained everything.
I took a swig of chocolate milk and sighed deeply. Then I considered my options: go to the movies and watch a lot of couples hug and possibly even kiss, or sit at home and listen to my parents talk to my sister, Megan, about which colleges she should apply to.
Hey, wait a second.
Remember that whole "middle school years are the best years of your life" thing?
I take it all back.CHAPTER 2
When it came right down to it, the decision was pretty easy. I went to the movies.
It was some goofy movie about a guy who can't tell his girlfriend he loves her, so then he and his girlfriend get in a fight, and when he goes to bed she puts a spell on him. When he wakes up, he discovers that he cries every time he hears the word love, and he gets really embarrassed at work. Eventually he understands that he's become a better person, and then he wakes up and realizes it was all a dream, and he's relieved, but secretly he's worried because he thinks he might go back to the unfeeling person he was before.
Anyway, it had a few laughs before it got all annoyingly lesson-y and moral-y at the end. Why do movies do that all the time?
Afterward, we all went down to Jookie's for a milkshake and snacks.
We sat in two booths: the couples in one and the noncouples in the other.
Which meant that Jake, Hannah, Phil, Celia, Timmy, Erica, Pete, Mareli, Emory, and Eliza were all at one table (apparently Emory and Eliza had officially decided to become a couple at some point during the first twenty minutes of the movie).
And Katie, Nareem, and I were at the other table.
"It's great to see that you guys can be friends and everything after breaking up," I said. "It's really cool."
Nareem stared at his soda. "It's actually quite difficult, if you want to know the truth."
"Oh," I said.
That ended the conversation for a while. I sat there, eating my cheeseburger and trying to balance a spoon on the end of my nose. It took me a few tries, but I did it.
"Look," I said, showing off my accomplishment.
"Yippee," Katie said, without the slightest enthusiasm.
"Well done," said Nareem.
We took a few more bites of our food.
"Hey, Rituhbukkee Reunion Weekend is coming up," Katie said, trying to think of something that would cheer us all up. Camp Rituhbukkee — pronounced Read-a-bookie, by the way — was the school-like summer camp the three of us all went to last year. I totally hated it, for about four days. Then I kind of tolerated it, for about three more days. Then for about a week, I thought it was decent. By the time I left, I completely didn't want to leave.
The reunion was happening in New York City in a couple of weeks, and it was going to be awesome.
"Hey, yeah!" I said, glad to have something fun to look forward to.
Katie smiled. "Do you think Jared Bumpers will be there?" Nareem and I laughed. Jared was the kid who got kicked out of camp on the last day because he was a cheater.
"I doubt it," I said.
"It would certainly be an ironic turn of events," Nareem added, showing off his unfair vocabulary, as usual.
I thought about camp for a minute. One of the reasons it was so fun is that everyone else who went there was ... let me see, how can I put this without sounding insulting ... supernerdy. I was the total cool kid. In fact, Camp Rituhbukkee was where I first gave someone girl advice. He was this tall dorky kid named George Feedleman, who ended up becoming one of my closest friends. Yeah. They all thought I was such a stud. A total ladies' man.
Boy, were they wrong.
"You know something?" I said. "This stinks."
Nareem stopped midbite, which isn't easy when you're eating fried cheese sticks. Once you get going on those things, it's almost impossible to slow down.
"What stinks?" he asked.
I let out a big sigh. "Well, maybe stinks is too strong a word, but it's weird. All of a sudden I'm like the only one I know without a girlfriend. I feel like such a loser."
Katie and Nareem looked at each other, and I suddenly realized that since they didn't have boyfriends or girlfriends, either, I'd just kind of called them losers, too.
"Sorry, you guys," I said. "I didn't mean you. At least ... well ... I guess what I meant was, I've never had a girlfriend."
And there it was. I said it — the sad truth. I've never had a girlfriend. Technically, I'd almost had a girlfriend once. Her name was Zoe Alvarez, and we definitely liked each other, but then she moved away, and a few embarrassing misunderstandings later, we'd decided to just be friends. And Eliza Collins, the generally acknowledged prettiest girl in the grade, had always liked me, but for some crazy reason, I didn't like her back. Anyway, the next thing I knew, it was getting late in my middle school career, and I'd never been able to say the four sweetest words in the English language.
Yeah, we're going out.
"Well, I'm sure your luck will change soon," Nareem said, in his typical nicest-person-on-the-planet way. "You're funny and smart, and any girl would be lucky to go out with you."
"Stop being so sweet, Nareem," Katie said. "It's possible Charlie Joe will go through his entire life without knowing the love of a decent woman."
"Ha-ha," I said.
"Ha-ha yourself," Katie said.
Then my chocolate milkshake came. One thing I learned a long time ago: If you're ever feeling really sorry for yourself, order a chocolate milkshake.
I took a long sip, and suddenly things didn't seem so bad.
"Maybe you need to do a little research," Katie suggested.
"What do you mean by that?"
Nareem answered before Katie could. "She means if you want to figure out the mercurial ways of the fairer sex, you may wish to seek counsel from an expert in the field."
"Plain English, Nareem," I begged. "Just this once."
Katie laughed. "What we both mean," she said, "is read a book."
I nearly spit milkshake through my nose. "Ha!" But then I looked over at the couples' table, where Pete and Timmy had their arms around their girlfriends. They'd never looked happier in their lives. Timmy! Pete! Girlfriends!
They saw me and waved. Timmy whispered something to Pete, and they both snickered. I was sure it was about my miserable, girlfriendless life.
I turned back to Katie and Nareem and sighed.
"How long does this book have to be?"CHAPTER 3
"Charlie Joe Jackson, as I live and breathe!" said Mrs. Reedy, the librarian. "Be still my heart!"
I shrugged my shoulders. "What's the big deal? You act like you've never seen a student before."
"I've seen plenty of students," she said. "But this student! My oh my oh my!"
I eye-rolled. "Oh, stop being all dramatic."
The funny thing is, even though Mrs. Reedy and I were almost never in the same room together — mainly because her room happened to be the library, and my room happened to be any room besides the library — we got along really well. She and Ms. Ferrell, my guidance counselor, were two of my favorite adults at school.
"In any event," Mrs. Reedy said, "to what do I owe the honor of your special visit?"
I looked around to make sure no one else was listening. The coast was clear. "Well, to be honest," I whispered, "I'm looking for a book."
"A book!" Mrs. Reedy exclaimed in exaggerated shock. Then she saw the look on my face — which was probably half nervousness, half embarrassment — and decided to stop being silly. "What about?" she asked.
"It's hard to say," I admitted. "I guess ... well ... do you have any books about how to get girls to like you and want to go out with you?"
Mrs. Reedy looked skeptical. "Are you serious? I've always considered you the man with the silver tongue."
I wasn't sure what that meant, but I was pretty sure it was a compliment.
"Thanks, I guess. But ... the thing is, I've never had a girlfriend, and I'm thinking maybe I'm doing something wrong or something."
"You're not 'doing something wrong or something,'" Mrs. Reedy said, her warm eyes crinkling into a smile. "You're in middle school. These things take time."
"I don't have time," I said. "All my friends have girlfriends all of a sudden, and I'm feeling left out."
"Aha," Mrs. Reedy said quietly. "Do you have a lucky lady in mind?"
"Nope, no one in particular," I said, wanting to end this part of the conversation as quickly as possible.
"Also," I added, "the book has to say all the important stuff on the inside flap, the back cover, and the first and last chapters, since those are the only parts I'll be reading."
"Ah, that's the Charlie Joe I know and love," Mrs. Reedy said. Then she clapped her hands together. "Wait a second! I have an idea ..." She started searching through the stacks. "There is a book ... I know it's around here somewhere ..." Finally she lit up in a bright smile. "Ah! Here it is!" Mrs. Reedy picked up a skinny book (just the way I like 'em) and handed it to me. The back cover was a picture of a boy and girl sitting at a picnic table and laughing. They were dressed like they were from a different planet.
"How old is this book?" I asked Mrs. Reedy.
"Older than you," she said. "Possibly even older than me. But good advice never goes out of style."
I flipped the book over and read the title.
A Communication Guide for Boys and Girls.
I was immediately insulted.
"Wait a second. Are you saying I can't communicate with girls?"
Mrs. Reedy laughed. "Of course I'm not saying that, Charlie Joe," she said. "But it sounds like perhaps you're having a little trouble being yourself around girls. Or at least, you're worried that you're not being yourself. That's usually the tricky part. Too much worrying, and not enough relaxing."
I thought about what she said. Maybe she was right. I had a history of trying to be the funniest, wackiest kid all the time. Maybe I tried a little too hard. Maybe Erica liked Timmy because he was just a typical kid. And Pete didn't try to be obnoxious all the time — he just was obnoxious all the time. I guess Mareli liked that.
"Okay, fine. I guess I'll check out a few pages."
Mrs. Reedy took the book, stamped a due date on it, and handed it back. I stared at it like it was a plate of fried slugs. Then I shoved it way in the bottom of my backpack, where no one could ever find it.
Not even me.
It is more impressive to whisper wisdom than it is to shout nonsense.
* * *
Many young people today feel like they must raise their voices to be heard. That is the opposite of the truth. Children of good manners will respond in a more positive fashion to those who speak in a measured tone, who feel no need to shout, because they're confident in the value of what they're saying.
Remember that the importance of what you're saying is not reflected in the volume of your voice.CHAPTER 4
I read a few pages of the book.
Then I read a few more.
Then a few more.
Before I knew it, I'd read practically ten pages.
Which, um, is a lot for me.
Hey, don't laugh. It's not like it was the first time I'd ever read a book or anything. I read a book at camp about a guy named Lech Walesa, who led a revolution and became president of Poland. He was cool and had an amazing mustache.
And I read The Giving Tree when I was about six. I loved that book. It was really, really short. And good! But mostly short.
This book was different than those two, though. A Communication Guide for Boys and Girls was one of those "how to be a better person" books that grown-ups were always reading. I wasn't really all that interested in how to be a better person, to be honest with you. I was completely satisfied with the person I was. Except for the girls thing.
So there I was, in the way, way back of the library, trying to get through the second chapter — Shy Is Not a Dirty Word — when I felt someone breathing over my shoulder. I turned around, and Emory was standing there. Emory was the kid from California who had swooped in and asked Eliza Collins to go out with him, even though the new kid asking out the prettiest girl breaks pretty much every rule in the middle school handbook.
Excerpted from Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide To Planet Girl by Tommy Greenwald, J.P. Coovert. Copyright © 2015 Tommy Greenwald. Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Tommy Greenwald is the author of the Charlie Joe Jackson series, as well as jack Strong Takes a Stand and Katie Friedman Gives Up Texting! Tommy is the father of three boys, and everything he knows about girls he learned from them.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Great book! A nice addition to the series! I ship team chiza (charlie joe and eliza)