Laugh till You Cry
  • Laugh till You Cry
  • Laugh till You Cry

Laugh till You Cry

5.0 4
by Joan Lowery Nixon

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For fans of Gillian Flynn, Caroline Cooney, and R.L. Stine comes Laugh Till You Cry from four-time Edgar Allen Poe Young Adult Mystery Award winner Joan Lowery Nixon.
        Thirteen-year-old Cody doesn’t like Texas. He and his mom were only supposed to spend the summer there, helping out his grandmother. But CodySee more details below


For fans of Gillian Flynn, Caroline Cooney, and R.L. Stine comes Laugh Till You Cry from four-time Edgar Allen Poe Young Adult Mystery Award winner Joan Lowery Nixon.
        Thirteen-year-old Cody doesn’t like Texas. He and his mom were only supposed to spend the summer there, helping out his grandmother. But Cody’s grandmother is sick and needs them to stay. Now he’s the new kid at the local middle school and all his friends are back in California. You’d think Cody’s cousin Hayden would show him the ropes. Not only is Hayden in the same grade; he lives next door. But Hayden doesn’t want anything to do with Cody.
        Cody’s luck begins to change when he befriends Officer Ramsey, a policeman and aspiring stand-up comic. Officer Ramsey appreciates Cody’s jokes so much, he pays Cody for the material! But it’s no laughing matter when a crime is committed at school and Cody becomes a suspect. Cody is going to need more than jokes to solve this mystery—and clear his name.
“Nixon has crafted a lively, fast-paced tale with an intelligent young hero who is creative, courageous, and compassionate.” –Kirkus Reviews
“Cody’s humorous side…and the book’s length make this mystery ideal.” –School Library Journal
“A fast-paced and fun read.” –VOYA

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
The much published and honored Joan Lowery Nixon had one more story up her sleeve before she died in 2003. Placed in her own hometown of Houston, Texas, it is about the settling-into-new-terrain troubles of thirteen-year-old Cody Carter. Relocated from California with his mom to care for his ailing grandmother, Cody arrives with a sense of humor and the goal of becoming a trial lawyer like his dead father—if he doesn't go for stand-up comic first. Unfortunately, no one in Houston appreciates his sense of humor but his new cop friend, Jake. Up against his tough cousin Hayden and nasty accusations at school—not to mention Hamlet—Cody must use all his ingenuity to soldier through. There's a touch of Nixon's trademark mysteries in her last book, as well as the fatherless theme—which often makes Cody seem much younger than his age. It is still her usual fast read. 2004, Delacorte Press, Ages 8 to 12.
—Kathleen Karr
Cody, age 13, has moved to Texas with his mother so that she can help take care of his grandmother, who is ill. All his friends are back in California, and while his same-age cousin Hayden lives just next door, he's a bully who picks on Cody. Hayden and his nasty friends are chasing Cody when he runs into an understanding policeman who befriends him. Officer Ramsey also performs as a stand-up comic, and he likes one of Cody's jokes so much that he buys it from him. But when a bomb threat is made at school, Cody is set up as a suspect, and jokes won't be enough to get him out of trouble. Cody is determined to solve the mystery of who is framing him, and also to manage to survive his encounters with Hayden as well as the study of Hamlet in school. Nixon, the author of many mysteries as well as historical fiction for YAs, delivers a fast-moving, suspenseful story. It feels a bit rushed, but the book's brevity may appeal. Readers unfamiliar with Hamlet may be confused by the many references to the play, but the main plot line will hold their interest. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2004, Random House, Delacorte, 128p., and (Lib. bdg.: ). Ages 12 to 15.
—Paula Rohrlick
Like much of Nixon's fiction, this book will provide a fast-paced and fun read. Cody just moved to Texas with his mother to live with and take care of his grandmother. He must adjust to a new school that does not seem to be too welcoming. He is bullied by his own cousin and is blamed for chaotic pranks at his middle school. Cody must learn to deal with such issues as bullying, relationships with adult family members, and solving a mystery. Besides talking with his grandmother about life issues and Shakespeare's Hamlet, Cody seeks advice from a police officer who is investigating the school pranks. Public and school libraries should definitely include this novel in their collections for those readers who enjoy Nixon's work or for those reluctant readers who want a quick, easy, and entertaining read. A drawback is its brevity and lack of an intricate mystery plot. More sophisticated readers in sixth grade and above will most likely solve the mystery fairly quickly; however, Cody is a loveable character who could be "anybody," and this story's appealing characteristic is how Cody deals with conflict and sadness in his life in a positive way. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P M J (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2004, Delacorte, 128p., and PLB Ages 11 to 15.
—Karen Sykeny
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Cody, 13, and his mother have temporarily moved to Texas to care for Cody's ailing grandmother. As the story opens, he is running from class bullies, one of whom is his cousin. He runs straight into a police officer, an aspiring comedian, who intervenes. A friendship develops between them, and Officer Ramsey pays Cody to write jokes for his stand-up routine. When a bomb threat is phoned in at school, Cody is the prime suspect, and he and Officer Ramsey are determined to find the real culprit. A subplot involves an assignment on Hamlet, which adds interest and results in an unusual oral report from the teen. While the characters aren't fully developed, the pacing of the story, Cody's humorous side, and the book's length make this mystery ideal for reluctant readers.-Linda Zeilstra Sawyer, Skokie Public Library, IL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Cody and his mom have moved to Houston to take care of his grandmother. As if being the new kid in school isn't enough, he must also contend with his cousin Hayden and his cohorts who bully him at every turn. The situation turns serious when Cody is blamed for several dangerous pranks. As the problems escalate to include stolen homework projects and secret plots, he tries to shield his grandmother from Hayden's involvement. An understanding police officer offers support and friendship as Cody solves the mystery of the pranks and forms a truce of sorts with his cousin. Nixon has crafted a lively, fast-paced tale with an intelligent young hero who is creative, courageous, and compassionate. He is surrounded by multidimensional supporting characters who add depth and complexity to a deceptively simple plot. A fine addition to Nixon's long and distinguished career. Published posthumously, with a moving tribute from Mary Higgins Clark. (Fiction. 10-14)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
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Random House
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt


Dodging low tree branches, leaping over dips and cracks in the sidewalk, Cody Carter ran harder and faster down Chimney Rock than he had ever run in his entire life. Someone was chasing him and quickly closing the short gap that lay between them.

The person yelled something, but fear and his own loud gasping for breath blocked Cody's ears, and he couldn't make out what was said. The only words that bounced through his brain were his: I'm only thirteen years old. I'm too young to die.

Ahead of him lay San Felipe, with cars backed up, waiting for the stoplight to change. In the nearest lane was a blue and white cop car, and Cody aimed for it, knocking on the passenger-side window. As he stared into the wide, surprised eyes of the uniformed policeman behind the wheel, Cody managed to croak, "Help!"

The officer flipped on his hazard lights and jumped from the car. Cody was bent over the fender, wiping rivulets of sweat from his eyes and gulping air.

"What's the matter, kid?" the officer called as he walked around the front of his sedan. He placed a firm hand on Cody's arm. "Are you okay?"

Cody twisted to look over his shoulder. His cousin Hayden Norton had drifted back and was standing behind some of the solid, broad-limbed oak trees that lined the street. Hayden's buddy Bradley Lee was with him. They were both at least five inches taller than Cody, even though they were all the same age and in the same grade at school.

Hayden and Brad watched Cody warily, practically sniffing the air like a couple of dogs as they waited to see what would happen next. But Hayden's other sidekick, Eddie Todd, shorter and even sneakier, was quietly edging his way back along the street. It was just like Eddie to leave the others, Cody thought. If there was going to be trouble, Eddie wouldn't be in it, even though he probably started it.

"Those guys want to kill me," Cody told the officer. He straightened, able now to breathe more easily.

The officer smiled. "Take a poke at you, maybe, but are you really sure they want to kill you?"

The humor in his voice made Cody flinch. "They do," he insisted. "They said they were going to drag me back to school and stick my head in a toilet. Drowning somebody is killing them, isn't it?"

For the first time Cody craned his neck upward to take a good look at the policeman beside him. The man had to be at least six feet three, with broad shoulders. His dark eyes were crinkled at the outer corners, as if he were trying hard not to smile.

"What did you do to make them so mad at you?" The officer turned briefly, and Cody could see him sizing up Hayden and Brad. Eddie was long gone.

"I moved here," Cody answered. He pointed at Hayden, who was still peeking out from behind the trees. "That tall kid with the yellow hair and the big gut is my cousin Hayden. He just plain doesn't want me to be here."

"Where's here, besides Houston?"

"My grandmother's house. Hayden lives right next door. Mom and I came here to live with my grandmother because she's really sick."

"What's your grandmother's name?"

"Dorothy Norton."

"And where does she live?"

"On Longmont. I don't think it's too far from here."

The officer glanced back at Hayden and Brad. Then he opened the passenger-side door of his sedan. "Hop in," he said. "I'll give you a lift home."

Gratefully, Cody picked up his backpack and scrambled into the car, closing the door tightly behind him. He sneaked a quick look at Hayden, but the two boys had turned around and were strolling in the opposite direction.

As the officer started his patrol car, he said, "My name's Jake Ramsey. What's yours?"

"Cody Carter." Quickly he added, "Thanks for helping me out, Officer Ramsey."

"No problem. And call me Jake. It's easier to remember. Where are you from, Cody?"

"California. Santa Olivia." Cody heard the glumness in his voice and realized he was frowning.

Jake threw him a quick look. "I take it you'd rather be there right now than in Houston."

"Right," Cody answered. "My grandma's got something wrong with her heart. It beats out of rhythm, so my mom took a leave of absence from teaching kindergarten and came here to take care of her for a while. I had to come, too." Cody wiped sweat from his forehead and leaned back, thankful for the blast of cold from the air conditioner. "Texas is a lot different from California."

Jake nodded. "Sure, it's different, which is probably a good plan."

Cody shrugged. "If there was a plan, then Texas must have been Plan B."

Jake laughed. "You don't like Texas? I'm surprised. Most people like it. We get a lot of visitors. I read the other day that if you laid all the people who came to visit the Alamo end to end, the line would stretch around the world."

"And if you laid all the people who brag too much about Texas end to end . . ." Cody paused. "They'd deserve it."

Jake laughed again as he turned onto Longmont. "That's a good joke. Where'd you get it?"

Cody turned to him, surprised. "I didn't get it anywhere. I made it up." He pointed to an older, cream-trimmed one-story brick house, sandwiched between two large, more recently built two-story homes. "That's my grandmother's house."

Jake parked in front of the house and pulled out his wallet. "I'd like to buy your joke," he said.

"What do you mean, buy my joke?"

"I play sax and sit in with a combo most weekend nights at a club over on Richmond," Jake told Cody. "They usually have a stand-up comic for entertainment, and once a month they hold open-mike night, when anyone can try out a routine. I love my police work and I love playing music, but I've always wanted to be a comedian. The thing is, comedians need material. Good material. Jay Leno and David Letterman don't come up with their opening monologues on their own. They pay a whole bunch of writers to make up those jokes."

Cody was interested. He wasn't allowed to stay up late on school nights, but on Friday he stayed up long enough to hear the Top Ten List on Letterman, and on Saturdays his mom let him watch Saturday Night Live. "How come you want to be a stand-up comic?" he asked. It was hard enough for him to think of a cop as a musician. It was really stretching it to imagine a cop making people laugh! And Jake didn't look like a comic. He looked like what he was--a big, tough police officer.

From the Hardcover edition.

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