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

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.

"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 knows it but me. In the entire town of Massapequa Park, only I can see him for what he really is. A phony."

Tamara Ann Simpson is determined to expose Muscle Man McGinty, a foster boy new to her neighborhood, for the liar that she knows he is. Muscle Man tells the other kids his uncle is Neil Armstrong and he even has the audacity to challenge the entire block to a kickball game. So, why is Tamara the only one who can see through this kid?

It's the summer of 1969 and things are changing in Tamara's little town of Massapequa, Long Island, and in the world. Perhaps Tamara can take one small step towards a bit of compassion and understanding.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312665487
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 09/18/2012
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 608,615
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 5.10(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

NAN MARINO spent her childhood daydreaming in oak trees and on garage roofs. She did come down to earth for an occasional game of kickball. She lives at the Jersey shore, with her husband (who has long been obsessed with the 1969 moon landing), and a very hyper dog. Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me is her first book.

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.

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Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 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
shelf-employed on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
(Advance Reader's Edition)Set in the summer of 1969, in a fictional neighborhood of Massapequa Park, NY, Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me is the story of young Tamara Ann Simpson, Muscle Man McGinty, the "squirrelly runt, ... lying snake, and ... pitiful excuse for a ten-year-old," and all the other colorful inhabitants of Ramble Street.It's not only Muscle's Man's tall tales that have Tammy in a snit. Her best friend, Kebsie Grobsers, has moved away without a trace, and Kebsie's room in Mrs. Kutchner's foster home is being occupied by none other than that wormy liar, Douglas, "Muscle Man" McGinty! Tamara can't figure out why the other neighborhood kids are cutting Muscle Man so much slack! Does anyone really believe that he's training for the 1972 Munich Olympics? That Neil Armstrong is his uncle?!A rough-and-tumble girl who would rather play kickball than read, Tammy is no stranger to trouble and is grounded as often as not. Her mother, Shirley, is obsessed with soap operas,...a bunch of ladies are sitting in a hospital room, telling theone in the bed that no one will notice her injury, even thoughshe is wrapped up like a mummy with bandages and gauze."Why do you think they're telling her that?" asks Shirley."Because they're the stupidest group of ladiesto walk the planet?"It's probably wrong, but it's my best guess.Her dad, Marshall, is obsessed with how early he has to get up to catch the train to work, working "for the man," as Tammy's college-aged brother puts it.The Apollo 11 moon landing, the Vietnam War, the Miracle Mets, and Woodstock provide the backdrop for a story that is ultimately about Tammy, who finally learns to see past herself.Nan Marino succeeds in creating a microcosm of the turbulent summer of 1969 within the confines of Ramble Street and its inhabitants.Neil Armstrong is My Uncle is at times funny, at times touching, and always heartfelt. Kids will relate to Muscle Man's unflappable optimism and Tammy's candor (she can be a bit of a liar herself!)"What are you doing up there?""Nothing, Daddy."...I'm suddenly grateful that my parents are stair shoutersand not face yellers like Big Danny's mom and dad. For now,my garage roof secret is safe.Parents may enjoy reliving their own summer of '69.In full disclosure, I must admit that I work in the same library system as the author; however, I haven't had the pleasure of meeting her yet.Nan Marino's book is due out on May 12, 2009.
abbylibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's the summer of 1969 and the whole world is waiting to watch Neil Armstrong take the first steps on the moon. Tamara is gritting her teeth and dealing with Douglas "Muscle Man" McGinty, the wimpy new foster kid who's replaced Tamara's best friend Kebsie down the street. He thinks he's so great, but Tamara can see straight through his lies. He's not training for the Olympics. And Neil Armstrong is not his uncle, no matter what the wormy kid says. Why can't Muscle Man go away and send Kebsie back? Why can't everything go back to the way it was before? Oooh, an unreliable narrator. Maybe even an unlikeable narrator, but definitely one I could sympathize with. Though the novel is short, Tamara speaks volumes in what she doesn't say. I feel like I'm still uncovering layers as I go over the novel in my head.
francescadefreitas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A completely different subject, but this story gave me the feeling of "The Miracles of Jamie" by Ray Bradbury - I felt again exactly what it was like to be 10, with a gang of friends, and unwavering rules for life. While the world is fully occupied with the Vietnam war and the moon mission, Tamara is tormented by the sudden departure of her best friend, and the irritating new kid who's taken her place.I think a kid could who hates historical fiction could read this without having the time period intrude. I'd even try it with baseball fans.
prkcs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's the summer of 1969 and the world is getting ready to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon but it will take more than "one giant step" for Tamara to understand the new boy in the neighborhood, Muscle Man McGinty.
ElizaJane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reason for Reading: Obviously enough, a title like that makes you like twice plus the historical setting of the moon landing caught my eye and the book looked like an interesting change of pace for me. Comments: Tamara Ann Simpson's best friend has moved and now in her house lives a ten-year-old boy who is always smiling and is a skinny runt so she's nicknamed him Muscle Man; only problem is he loves the name. In fact, he never seems to get any of the sarcastic comments she throws his way, he's always smiling and being nice to her. But the real thing that bothers her is why nobody can see through his lies? Neil Armstrong is his uncle? He's training for the next Olympics? But when he says he can beat the whole kickball team singlehandedly, Tamara thinks this is her chance to prove to everyone he's just a wormy liar.This is a wonderful little book. Tamara is not exactly a bully, but she is the one in her gang of friends who has the mouth and calls things as she sees them without thinking about someone's feelings first. Tamara does not have a happy life at home and when her best friend moves away quite suddenly it hits her hard and she experiences a loss like she's never felt before. But there is something about Muscle Man that she doesn't know and if she'd stop being so selfish for a minute she'd realize she is the only one who is not seeing Muscle Man for who he really is. So Tamara learns one of those hard lessons of life.There are lots of fun childhood moments as the neighbourhood children gather together each day and play on the street in a way that is really not seen much anymore these days. There are also poignant moments such as when the reality of the Vietnam War comes to the street. Tamara's character is well-defined, a feisty, hard-headed yet lonely and neglected child that the reader sympathises with. Wonderfully written and a quick read. This is a little book that packs a big punch! A good read. Recommended.
nicole on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It¿s summer, so all the kids are out of school and running around the neighborhood. Their days are filled with kickball and ice cream. Unfortunately Tammy just isn¿t happy. Her best friend moved away and a boy has moved into her old house. Tammy nicknames him ¿Muscle Man¿ and hates hearing all his lies; even worse, no one else, even the adults, calls Muscle Man out on the lies. As summer stretches on and the realities of Vietnam hit home, things change even more for Tammy and the neighborhood. The story culminates with the moon landing and an understanding between Tammy and her nemesis.Nan Marino has crafted a fabulously funny, yet heart-breaking story. The characters were easy to connect with and very realistic. Although intended for a preteen audience, Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle will appeal to all ages. Hopefully it¿ll inspire the kids who read it to find out more about the historical events in the book.
bethdalton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tamara Ann Simpson lives in the small town of Massapequa, New York.It's 1969 and all of the kids in this small suburban town all know each other well and meet up for daily kickball games.Tamara is hurting.She is missing her best friend who has moved away suddenly and her big brother who has gone away to college.She recognizes the limitations of her distant parents.All of her anger is directed towards a new kid, Douglas, who she nicknames Muscle Man McGinty.Muscle Man McGinty tells "whoopers" - lies that cannot possibly be true and Tamara doesn't understand why no one else is bothered by this stretching of the truth.Many of the details of the sixties are captured in this book - from Jack LaLane on televison to drinking Tang .Bigger events like the Vietnam War and man's first walk on the moon also drive the storyline.In the end, though, this is a story about loneliness and the need to connect with others. Tamara, learns a bit of sympathy and compassion and she receives a fair doze from others as well.Parents who remember this time, will enjoy this book along with their kids.
noranydrop2read on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was fortunate to receive a copy of Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle And Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by Nan Marino from Roaring Brook Press. This is a sweet, funny story set in upstate New York just before the moon landing, focusing on a group of neighborhood children who have their own hierarchy and rules. Tammy, the narrator, can't stand the newcomer to the neighborhood, a scrawny boy she mockingly dubs "Muscle Man." He tells outrageous lies, the most recent of which is that Neil Armstrong is his uncle. The other children let his lies slide, which infuriates Tammy, who continues to pick on Muscle Man. It gradually dawned on me that Tammy is a bully, and the reason I didn't notice immediately is that Marino draws her so sympathetically. She's grieving for her best friend who moved without a forwarding address, and she resents Muscle Man as the newcomer. Muscle Man responds to Tammy's mean comments with kindness that only angers Tammy further. The impending moon landing, Woodstock, and the Vietnam War hover mostly in the background (with the exception of a touching subplot involving a neighbor whose son is serving). I found myself utterly swept up in the naive world of these children in the summer of 1969, and hoping that Tammy and Muscle Man would find solace in friendship with each other. This is the perfect book for teaching children how to understand another person's point of view and that everyone has his own problems, and I recommend it to adults and children alike.
nbmars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This touching story will have you sidling up to your Kleenex box. It¿s a short and ultimately sweet story about coping with loss, narrated by ten-year-old Tamara Ann Simpson, or Tammy.It¿s the summer after fifth grade for Tammy, in 1969, the same summer that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Tammy¿s best friend, Kebsie Grobser, moved away a month and a half ago, and now a new foster kid has taken her place across the street, a scrawny boy her age that Tammy contemptuously calls Muscle Man McGinty. He is constantly bragging and exaggerating, even claiming that astronaut Neil Armstrong is his uncle!The kids on the block all play kickball together, and through this medium, get to know each other¿s mettle. Tammy is dead-set against the new boy fitting in; to her, he is usurping Kebsie¿s place, and she blames him for Kebsie being gone. When she pushes McGinty into challenging the whole kickball team to a game, she doesn¿t understand why the rest of the kids are so nice to him.The story ends on July 20, 1969, the night Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. A lot of other big steps are taken that summer too by Tammy, as she learns all about friendship and forgiveness and the fact that what people say isn¿t always what they mean.The kids¿ behavior seems age-appropriate. Their struggles with social rules and emotions and understanding how the word works strike me as just right. There are some aspects of the story a child of today might not get, like the War in Vietnam, without a little help from adults. And the bullying, rejection, loss and acceptance might provide great opportunities for parental guidance. Recommended as a good joint reading project for children and parents.
bermudaonion on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tamara Simpson is having a rough summer. Her best friend, Kebsie, was a foster child living with the woman across the street and she¿s moved back in with her mother. A new boy, Douglas, has moved in ¿ Tamara calls him Muscle Man because he¿s so scrawny. Tamara resents Muscle Man because he¿s taken Kebsie¿s place and he tells lies that no one else seems to notice. Among other things, he claims to be training for the Olympic swimming team and says that Neil Armstrong is his uncle. When he challenges the whole neighborhood to a kick ball game, Tamara won¿t give him an inch and can¿t understand why everyone one else will.When Tamara¿s brother¿s best friend, Vinnie, is killed in Vietnam, she discovers something about Douglas that makes her re-think her attitude and understand everyone else¿s.Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by Nan Marino is a middle grade reader, but I loved it. The story line is great, so it kept my interest throughout. I think the author captured the feelings of being 12 years old ¿ you¿re beginning to feel grown up, yet there¿s still so much of the world you don¿t understand. Tamara¿s feelings of confusion are so typical at that age. Tamara had a strong sense of right and wrong and just couldn¿t understand why no one else seemed to. This is a great book to share with a young reader.This book also made me remember where I was when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, almost 40 years ago. I was about the same age as Tamara is in the book and my father drug me out of bed because he didn¿t want me to miss history in the making. I grumbled at the time, but I¿m very glad I witnessed it now.
LiLibrarianCK on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Growing up on Long Island, these were the neighborhoods we all longed for. Dads went off to work at Grumman while moms swapped recipes over tea. For us kids, all that really mattered was the ice cream man, hanging out on the front lawn and an afternoon game of kickball. As I hunt for a home here on Long Island, it is a neighborhood like this one that I search for. Welcome to Massapequa Park during the summer of '69.Tamara, a spunky 10-year-old with no filter between her thoughts and her mouth, spends most of her summer days with the kids in the neighborhood. All, but her best friend who recently moved away. All, including the biggest liar she has ever come into contact with - "Muscle Man" McGinty. This scrawny new kid on the block gets under Tamara's skin in every way a fellow 10-year-old can, starting with moving into her best friend's old house. And if that isn't bad enough, everyone else in the neighborhood seems to think he's just swell. He's making friends and getting free ice cream all over the place with his nice guy act. But she's not buying it. A few too many fibs followed by bragging about his kickball capabilities finally sends Tamara over the edge.She embarks on a mission to uncover just what this McGinty kid is all about. But what she discovers is a lesson many of us learn time and time again. That maybe, just maybe, people are the way they are for a reason. That things aren't always what they seem. That there are life experiences that often push us forward. Tamara learns a lot more about compassion, loneliness and suburbia survival than she may have intended.Intertwined with the historical elements of one of America's most significant and determining summers, this book will have readers give a few chuckles while holding their hands over their hearts in both heartache and patriotism.Though this story took place in the late 1960's, I found myself reminiscing about my own childhood just a few towns away in the 1980's (insert Brian Adams' "Summer of '69 here) on Long Island. They had the Apollo, we had the Challenger. Family never returning from Vietnam, friends going off to Iran. That personal connection that a reader finds through setting can make a story come alive like no other. And it her debut novel, librarian Nan Marino nailed it.(Gr.4-7)
jen.redmini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Can you believe him. Muscle Man McGinty has some nerve. He just moved onto our street and he already thinks he's better than the rest of us. He challenged us to a game of kickball, everyone against him. I'm gonna prove that kid is a liar. Tamara is upset for so many reasons. Muscle Man McGinty moved in to her best friends old house, he lies, and she knows he is up to no good, but no one will believe her. Mixed in is the first moon walk by Neil Armstrong and the effects of the Vietnam War on this close nit community.
storyteller200 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a funny and heartwarming read! I enjoyed this one, though I didn't find its characters to be totally sympathetic at times. However, the writing is strong as is the dialogue of the characters and I really enjoyed spending time with this family. A great one for middle school students!
suzukibeane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nan Marino¿s Neil Armstrong is My Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me is an easy read but not a simple one. Written from the first-person perspective of a girl living in the suburbs in 1969, this book tackles difficult issues through equally complex characters. From the first page, it becomes clear that ten-year-old Tamara Ann Simpson is not your typical heroine. In fact, she is pretty despicable. The sweet and wimpy, Muscle Man McGinty, makes an unlikely archenemy. As the new foster child on the block, he wins the hearts and sympathies of neighbors young and old. Even if Muscle Man does have the tendency to exaggerate, everyone seems to like him. Why can¿t Tammy make them see what she sees? To her, Muscle Man McGinty is nothing but a no-good liar, and she is out to prove it. Throughout this narrative of the conflict between Tammy and Muscle Man, Marino intersperses era-specific references to hippies, fondue, and the frontier of space travel. She also addresses the severity of the Vietnam War. When tragedy strikes Tammy¿s block, Marino approaches difficult issues in an honest way. Through the unflinching perspective of Tammy, the reader gains a depth of insight that is both rare and valuable in children¿s literature. This was a tumultuous time in American history, characterized by both celebration and horror. Like the year, 1969, Tammy represents to the reader that nothing is ever as simple as good or evil.
KHusser on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A terrific historical/realistic fiction from the early 1970¿s, before we had the computer/information explosion thrust upon us, and another great story written by a librarian! Set in the summer of 1969, when Jack Lalane, TV, letter writing, and Vietnam were on America¿s radar. Readers get to experience the Apollo moonwalk as well as learn some hard facts of life along with 12 year old, Tammy Simpson, who ¿lost¿ her BF, some 45 days, to be with her mother. Muscle Man is the new foster kid next door, that just can¿t seem to tell the truth, and Tammy is determined to expose all of his lies.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My friend Katie told me her dads cousin was Neil Armstrong...
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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
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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