Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by Nan Marino, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me

Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me

4.5 17
by Nan Marino

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A tender story about a tough-as-nails girl forced to take one small step towards understanding during the summer of 1969.


A tender story about a tough-as-nails girl forced to take one small step towards understanding during the summer of 1969.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It's July 1969 and while the attention of everyone else in her Long Island neighborhood is on the impending moonwalk, Tamara Ann Simpson's focus is the black hole created by the sudden departure of her best friend, Kebsie, a foster child who lived across the street. She directs her considerable anger at Douglas McGinty, the new foster kid, whom she ironically dubs "Muscle Man." In her self-absorbed grief, Tammy fails to see that the whoppers Douglas tells-he's training for the 1972 Olympics, he's sung on Broadway-are his way of coping with a major loss of his own. "Muscle Man McGinty is a squirrelly runt, a lying snake, and a pitiful excuse for a ten-year old," Tammy's narration begins. "The problem is.... only I can see him for what he really is." Indeed, among the well-realized cast of scruffy neighborhood pals, no one joins Tammy's campaign to unmask Muscle Man as a phony. But author Marino, in her debut, pulls off the neat trick of having created a sullen, feisty protagonist who is worthy of redemption. Ages 8-12.
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Children's Literature - Stephanie Dawley
It is hard to believe this is Nan Marino's first novel: the characters are well-developed, the dialogue is natural, and the plot holds together well against the backdrop of late 1960s events like the first moon walk and the Vietnam War. Her main character, Tamara Simpson, is a scrappy 10-year-old who is devastated when her best friend Kebsie, a foster child, moves away without a word. And when a scrawny kid named McGinty who tells lies right and left moves in to take her place, Tamara isn't having it. She cannot understand why she is the only one in the neighborhood who sees through his nonsense. She even nicknames him "Muscle Man McGinty" to show what a giant pain he is and to mock his tiny little body. Everyone else seems to not only ignore his lying, they are actually nice to him! Tamara is thrilled when Muscle Man makes the fatal mistake (or so she thinks) of claiming he can beat the neighborhood kids in kickball all by himself. Tamara is sure this will be her chance to show the others how right she has been about him all along and to finally get him kicked out of the group. But as the story unravels, Tamara learns something about Muscle Man's past that might just change her mind about him. Reviewer: Stephanie Dawley
School Library Journal

Gr 4-6

Tammy is alone. No one else on her block sees through the lies 10-year-old Muscle Man McGinty, a foster child, tells them, her best friend moved away without saying a word, her brother left for college, and his best friend was sent to Vietnam. When Muscle Man declares he can single-handedly beat the entire neighborhood in kickball, Tammy looks forward to trouncing him unmercifully. But the ground keeps shifting under her feet, and it's only when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the Moon that anything begins making sense again. Set in the summer of 1969, Marino's first novel moves with a sometimes-humorous, conflict-driven plot. Some of the characterizations aren't particularly original-tomboyish Tammy can't stand her bossy-girly neighbor while her hardworking, tie-wearing father can't be in the same room with budding-hippie Tim. Still, Marino paints a detailed portrait of the seeming gulf that surrounds a person after loss and the surprising companionship one discovers in the face of desolation.-Bethany Isaacson, Wheaton Regional Library, Silver Spring, MD

Kirkus Reviews
It's the summer of 1969, when astronauts land on the moon, and Tamara Ann Simpson is not having a good time. Foster child and best friend Kebsie has suddenly moved away and now Douglas McGinty is in her spot with Mrs. Kutchner. Tammy dubs him "Muscle Man" after one outrageous lie, determined to give him his comeuppance in front of the whole gang. Fierce and plaintive, Tammy's voice crackles with originality and yet is completely childlike. The '60s setting comes to life with sharply honed details like kickball games, ice-cream trucks, soap operas, references to "the man" and the loss of life to the Vietnamese war. The authenticity of the time and the voice combine with a poignant plot to reveal a depth unusual in such a straightforward first-person narrative. Showing a neighborhood still webbed together by typical daily contact, the characters are individually distinct and real. Also real is the fact that Tammy's tenacity is never fully appreciated, even as she softens her principles and becomes slightly more understanding than seemed possible in the beginning. (Historical fiction. 8-12)
From the Publisher

“It is rare to have a story told with sympathy from the viewpoint of a bully. This debut novel, set in upstate New York in the summer of 1969, does just that with wit and a light touch that never denies the story's sorrows.” —Starred, Booklist

“Marino paints a detailed portrait of the seeming gulf that surrounds a person after loss and the surprising companionship one discovers in the face of desolation.” —Starred, School Library Journal

“A lovingly portrayed look at life during a memorable time in American history; it deserves to be on your child's summer reading list.” —BookPage

“Marino's novel brings a true voice to the pre-teenage girl of the 1960s. Tamara is both lovable and naïve, yet Marino creates a strong young woman who is set in her principles and unrelenting in achieving justice during a historic summer in America.” —ALAN Online

“The authenticity of the time and the voice combine with a poignant plot to reveal a depth unusual in such a straightforward first-person narrative.” —Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

Square Fish
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7.40(w) x 5.10(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


The Blizzard of ’69

MUSCLE MAN MCGINTY is a squirrelly runt, a lying snake, and a pitiful excuse for a ten-year-old. The problem is that no one on Ramble Street knows it but me. In the entire town of Massapequa Park, only I see him for what he really is. A phony.

Knowing the truth when others fail to see it is hard on a person. That’s because the truth has a way of seeping under your skin and wrapping itself around you, like a coiled-up Slinky.

You know that tinny sound a Slinky makes? Shink. Shink. Shink.

Sometimes I hear it creeping around inside my brain. The closer I get to Muscle Man, the louder it gets. When he’s standing right next to me spewing out his whoppers, that Slinky inside me goes crazy.

SHINK! SHINK! SHINK! You can only imagine my headaches. I’ve even named the really big ones "Muscle Men" after the cause of all my problems.

Personally, I think it’s funny to name your pain, but the others on Ramble Street never get my humor. Even Big Danny, who can laugh at dead teacher jokes, fails to see the comedy.

"Jeez, Tamara," he huffs. "The kid only moved here a few weeks ago. Can’t you give him a break?" He kicks his foot at the side of the curb.

"Jeez yourself," is all I think of saying back.

Big Danny turns his back on me, and I turn my back on him. We are both standing at the corner of Ramble Street, each one staring in the opposite direction. Neither one of us will give up our spot on the sidewalk because the ice cream truck is about to come around for the first time this season.

It is an important day. Ice cream trucks mean summer is here. No more having Mrs. Webber, my fifth grade teacher, glaring at me through her spectacles. As far as I’m concerned, ice-cream trucks never come soon enough, and they leave far too early. Their time on Ramble Street is fleeting. And if Big Danny wants to ruin the entire morning by not speaking, that’s fine with me. It’ll be easier to hear the bells without his blabbering.

We wait in stony silence. Every once in a while, I flip my ponytail in his direction just to annoy him.

It’s not until Muscle Man McGinty pulls up on his bicycle that Big Danny starts yapping. All that time, Big Danny had something he was itching to tell. As soon as he sees Muscle Man, he blurts it out.

"I made the swim team!" shouts Big Danny.

"Hey, good for you, Big Guy!" Muscle Man pats him on the back. "Making the swim team is not an easy thing to do."

"Yeah, congratulations," I mumble, not sure if Big Danny is talking to me yet.

"I heard there was a lot of competition," says Muscle Man.

Big Danny grins.

Muscle Man is wormy. He always starts with something nice before he slides into one of his whoppers.

I hold my breath, waiting for what comes next.

"Did I happen to mention I’m training for the Olympics in that same sport?" Muscle Man says.

Sure. And I’m waiting for Captain Kirk to beam me up to the starship Enterprise.

"Every Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, I go to the pool and practice." He puffs out his puny chest. "My coach thinks I’ll win a gold medal in seven races. It would be a world record, but I’m hopeful."

"You like to swim?" asks Big Danny, like it’s every day someone announces he’s training for the Olympics.

"Yep. Coach says I’ll be ready for Munich, Germany. That’s where the next games will be." Muscle Man presses his thumb and forefinger so close together they almost touch. "I’m this far away from the world record. All I need to do is work on my flip turn."

Turn, schmurn. First of all, Muscle Man is barely ten, which means that in 1972, when they have the next Olympics, he’ll only be about thirteen. Plus, I’ve never seen him swim. I doubt the kid even owns a bathing suit. World record, my eye. This kid’s got as much chance of going to Munich, Germany, as I have of going to the moon.

"Maybe we could go to the pool together," Big Danny says.

"Yeah, and you can both practice for that world’s record," I say, with disbelief dripping off my every word.

Big Danny catches my tone and sneers at me. At me! Muscle Man sells him a bag of bull and gets nothing, and I get glared at for pointing out the obvious.

I turn away from both of them, pretending to be interested in a group of ants climbing over a half-eaten Tootsie Roll. Neither boy notices. They’re too busy talking about backstrokes and racing dives.

"Of course, no matter how famous I become, I’ll always remember my friends on Ramble Street," says Muscle Man.

The spot above my right temple begins to throb.

Muscle Man puts his arm on Big Danny’s shoulder. "I’ll never forget you, Danny O. And you too, Tamara."

I refuse to even look his way. Instead, I watch a tiny dandelion seed float on the breeze. I catch it before it finds its way to the ground.

"They’ll probably want to put my picture on the Wheaties box," he says.

"Jeez. Give me a break." I throw my hands up in the air. Before I can tell him what I think of his lies, I catch another dandelion seed. Soon, my hands are full of them. A flurry of white surrounds us.

Muscle Man looks around. "Where’s it coming from?"

Big Danny points to my house. "Tammy’s mom."

I glance across the street to where Shirley is wrestling with the dandelions that fill our front lawn. With every pull, she sends up another flurry.

"There must be hundreds of them," says Big Danny.

"Millions," says Muscle Man, which is another lie. I highly doubt there are a million. A hundred thousand, maybe, but not a million.

Shirley yanks harder, and the flurry turns into a blizzard. Like snowflakes, the seeds twist and tumble before they find their way onto the lawns of Ramble Street.

"Cool." Muscle Man cups his hand to catch a seed. Then he jabs at me playfully. "Hey, Tammy. Listen."

I’m about to tell him that he’s got nothing to say that I want to listen to when I realize what he’s talking about.

Bells ring out in the distance. The Mr. Softee song grows louder.

Any second now that truck will turn the corner. Right in the middle of the dandelion blizzard, summer will come to Ramble Street.

Excerpted from Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle by Nan Marino.

Copyright 2009 by Nan Marino.

Published in May 2009 by Roaring Brook Press.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

Meet the Author

Nan Marino grew up in Massapequa, New York, the same town as Jerry Seinfeld, the Baldwin brothers, and the musical group, The Stray Cats. Nan spent her childhood daydreaming in oak trees and on top of garage roofs. She did come down to earth for an occasional game of kickball. A librarian with degrees in library science and educational technology, Nan lives at the Jersey shore, with her husband and a very energetic dog.

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Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
AuthorMichaelJSullivan More than 1 year ago
I happened to listen to the audio version while my daughter read the book. Nan Marino is a terrific writer and is a great storyteller. She paints a vivid picture of 1960s Long Island, a time where innocence is lost due to the Vietnam War. Marino allows us inside the mind of the main character, a bully, so effectively. While trying to understand why no one on her block sees "Muscle Man McGinty" for what he is, a lying snake, she battles her own emotional shortcomings. I recommend this book to families to read together and understand why bullies may act the way they do. While I do not sympathize totally with any bully, there are reasons, as so accurately pointed out by this brilliant book, for their hehavior. It's the first book I've read from a perspective of a young, female bully. And Ms. Marino hit a home run.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My friend Katie told me her dads cousin was Neil Armstrong...
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like it. Sunshine State Young Readers Award( SSYRA) the year
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think that this is a great book for kids It can be funnie or sad at the same time
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book! All of the characters' personalities fit them perfectly. Our teacher read this to our fourth grade class. We all loved it! P.S. If you liked this book I highly suggest The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School it was so funny
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i have something to say mt teacher is a very nice person she blows me away with her ideas she is a great and lovely teacher and a huge football fan but sometimes she can get mad but she will always be my number one teacher inthe world i feel very lucky to have her and god bless that her and her family will live a safe happy life and also she is so inspiring to me and she teaches us a lot of stuff the fun way not the boring so i feel blessed to have her as a theacher i hope evryone can read about my beautiful fun and rad teacher before i end i want to say some other things sbout her like her outragous personalty to her smile and her giving heart so i adore her wonfurl personalty she always make boring things fun and if your down in the blues she'll make you feel better in a jiffy and i love how she is so giving like she does a classroom store every month and she always keeps promises like if you tell her you were not their for the classroom store she would promise you that you could mske it up another day she always tells us stories about her childhood and about her weekend and she always talks about football she alsodoes funny things with spelling words it is so funny this teacher is ms conroy and she teaches at seagate elmentry school and please give her a special award please
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