Without even trying, Mudshark is a very cool 12-year-old (he acquired his nickname after wowing his peers with lightning-speed reflexes during a game of Death Ball ("a kind of soccer mixed with football and wrestling and rugby and mudfighting"). He is mentally quick as well: his powers of observation and photographic memory enable him to tell kids where to find misplaced possessions. But when the school librarian acquires an apparently psychic parrot, Mudshark's role is threatened. This, he reluctantly admits, "rattled his cool," and he is determined to discover the whereabouts of the missing blackboard erasers before the parrot does, a feat that entails crafty and comical maneuverings. Additional diversions (chapters open with dispatches from the principal, offering updates on a loose gerbil and an escalating crisis in the faculty restroom) keep this compact story quick and light. Yet three-time Newbery Honor author Paulsen (Hatchet) delves deeper, shaping Mudshark as a credible and compassionate protagonist, despite his improbable abilities and the even more improbable situations that arise at his off-kilter school. Which makes this clever novel all the cooler. Ages 8-12. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Candice Ransom
Lyle Williams earned his nickname, Mudshark, during a game of Death Ball, "a kind of soccer mixed with football and wrestling and rugby and mudfighting." Mudshark has plenty of quick-move practice with triplet baby sisters at home. Besides his agility in Death Ball, Mudshark is a legend in middle school for his near-photographic memory and his ability to think. His focus and concentration enables him to help students find missing shoes, homework, and the plastic brain from a skull. Elementary school boys will enjoy Mudshark's exploits as a detective, especially when a psychic parrot cuts in on his business. He is determined to beat the parrot in tracking all the missing blackboard erasers, which is nicked by an art-loving custodian who cannot bear to have the students' wonderful work erased. Paulsen packs a lot of humor and action in eighty-three pages, and he is a master at creating quirky characters. Despite the story's short length, Paulsen's language does not talk down to the reader, and a hero, who spends much of his time in the library reading and thinking, is refreshing. Reviewer: Candice Ransom
School Library Journal
His reflexes honed chasing triplet toddler sisters, Lyle Williams, 12, earned the nickname Mudshark during an especially fierce game of Death Ball. He relishes reading and observing the world as much as he enjoys sports, and his memory for finding lost articles wins him the prestige of unofficial school detective. The inevitable trouble in paradise occurs when the librarian's psychic parrot threatens his reputation. Mudshark decides that he can simultaneously neutralize the bird and solve a missing-eraser problem with a little help from a wacky assortment of classmates. The principal's intercom announcements that introduce each chapter may cause teary-eyed chortles ("Please refrain from forming hunting parties to hunt the gerbil"). Paulsen presents readers with the unabashedly entertaining machinations of Mudshark, lone bastion of sanity in the midst of school chaos. Fresh and light with scads of humor, this is a tale that doesn't take itself too seriously. That said, the episodes of school-borne mischief hit their target audience just right. Themes of community, literacy, and determination find an oddly snug fit alongside radioactive faculty restrooms and crayfish population explosions. Use this as a classroom read-aloud or hand it to children who like quick reads with strong vocabulary. Fatten those lean humor sections with this slim charmer.-Caitlin Augusta, The Darien Library, CT
Paulsen's peppy, lightweight new classroom comedy about a super-sharp kid is meant to amuse, and it does. Set in a slightly surreal school populated by a host of idiosyncratic but identifiable character types, the story, told in the third person, revolves around the ever resourceful Mudshark, a boy blessed with perfect recall, lightning-fast reflexes and a good heart. Because of these attributes, everyone at school depends on Mudshark's whizzy brain until the librarian gets an all-seeing (and unfortunately always belching) parrot. Will the parrot eclipse Mudshark as school detective? Not the most profound question in the universe perhaps, but one that boys should delight in. The funniest part of the story is the principal's announcements ordering the superintendant to report to the faculty restroom with an increasingly dire list of equipment that runs from large stick to Geiger counter, and the most touching is the super's meditation on the impermanence of thought. Add in the mystery of the missing erasers, a bored cat and a course of aversion therapy, and it equals fun. (Fiction. 8-12)
From the Publisher
Review, FamilyFun, June 2009:
"A master of lively, highly accessible prose, Paulsen offers much in this short read, from kooky characters to stringent satire."