The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall: Katie Alender
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Charlie Bumpers vs. the Perfect Little Turkey: Bill Harley

Book: Charlie Bumper vs. the Perfect Little Turkey
Author: Bill Harley
Illustrator: Adam Gustavson
Pages: 160
Age Range: 7-10

I liked Bill Harley's first Charlie Bumpers book, Charlie Bumpers vs. the Squeaking Skull. So I was happy to give Book 4, Charlie Bumpers vs. the Perfect Little Turkey, a look. Charlie Bumpers is a third grader with an annoying younger sister, the Squid AKA Mabel, and a bossy older brother, Matt. The Charlie Bumpers books are highly realistic illustrated early chapter books, with a likable and imperfect hero. 

In this installment, Thanksgiving is approaching, and Charlie's parents have inadvertently ended up with slightly too many guests expected for Thanksgiving dinner. Charlie is particularly aggrieved to learn that he'll be expected to share his bedroom with his annoying younger cousin, Chip (much to the amusement of Matt and Mabel). Charlie's dissatisfaction with his parents and siblings lead him to submit a snide response to a school assignment about defining family. However, over the course of the long holiday weekend, Charlie has occasion to reassess. 

I quite liked this story. I found the core family dynamics to be realistic, even as some of the actual events were a bit over the top (a good things for this age range). Charlie's parents are strict, and when distracted, are not always completely fair. But they mean well. The relatives, particularly Chip, are flawed, even Charlie's beloved Uncle Ron. The ending involves some degree of redemption for Charlie's suffering, but not in an overly-saccharine way. His revised definition of family is true to Charlie's own voice. 

And here are a couple of snippets, to give you a feel for Charlie's voice:

"Mrs. Burke was sneaky. She'd fooled us again. She had gotten all of us interested in something, and now we had to write about it. What a horrible way to ruin a perfectly good learning experience." (Page 15, ARC)

"Mom was acting like a marine sergeant. She always gets like this when relatives come. But you don't argue with a marine sergeant--especially when it's your mom." (Page 43, ARC)

"I looked at Mom. If we'd been in a cartoon, there would've been little puffs of steam coming out of her ears." (Page 107, ARC)

As an adult reader, I could sympathize with Mom, but the above passage still made me chortle. 

One other thing I enjoyed in this book. Charlie's little sister has just learned to read, and spends the entire book spelling things, and sounding things out. I think that the relatively new readers who are this book's target audience will find this funny. 

Charlie Bumpers and the Perfect Little Turkey reminded me a bit of The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, albeit for a younger age range, and with a bit less diversity (though there is some). It's the story of an ordinary kid in the midst of the chaos of extended family and friends, coping with a difficult cousin and, ultimately, bonding with his own siblings. Charlie Bumpers and the Perfect Little Turkey would be a great read for any early elementary schooler this fall, prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. It's not necessary to have read the earlier books in the series to enjoy this one. Recommended!

Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (@PeachtreePub)
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2015 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).Charlie