Monday, August 26, 2013

Review: Guys Laugh (and a contest!)

There is nothing more important in the world than getting boys to read.

Well, there’s access to clean water and food.

And that entire pesky disease thing.

Fine, there’s our broken education system too!

Ahem. Because there are only three things more important than getting boys to read, I’m reviewing three books today. Each of them made me laugh like a ticklish hyena in a feather factory, and I think they’ll get your boys to laugh too. 

As a bonus, there’s a contest! Keep reading and find out how to win.

The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex, is one of my favorites. On the surface an alien invasion story, it’s actually a buddy book pairing an ET who names himself JLo and a earth-girl named Tip. The entire novel is filled with the ridiculous, the hilarious, and even the poignant as Tip and JLo go cross-country in Tip's car (which hovers much better after JLo fixes it) in an attempt to save the Earth from annihilation. An extra bonus: Rex throws in fantastic drawings and even some pages out of an alien comic book. If you've never seen aliens who communicate by punching each other in the face, you owe it to yourself to read this book.

Guys Read: Funny Business, edited by Jon Scieszka, is a compilation of short stories by some of the all-stars of the middle grade world. The great thing about this book is that you can snap through a story in a couple of minutes whenever you have time, so it could make perfect bedtime reading. One story alone is worth the price of admission: Eoin Colfer, the author of the Artemis Fowl series, writes about how Artemis came to be. It's a comical but touching piece, amazing how much humor and power Colfer can pack into just a few pages. Adam Rex has a hilarious story as well.

Finally, The Brixton Brothers, by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex, is one of my new favorites. Steve Brixton is on a quest to become a detective, assisted by the ridiculously outdated Bailey Brothers’ Detective Handbook. Rex’s drawing of the type #3 villain, The Hermit (crazy old man wielding an anchor) might be the funniest thing I had ever experienced. That is, until I read about Steve’s exploits going undercover as a sailor, dressed in an outfit as directed by the Bailey Brothers' Detective Handbook.

AND NOW THE BIG QUESTION. You’re tearing your hair out by now, wondering what the contest is and how you can win one of these amazing books. Tell us already, you purple-flabbered dingleberry!

First of all, that’s not nice.

Second, I chose these three books not only because they all made me crack up, but because I discovered that something amazing links them all. And it's not that Adam Rex is featured in all three (although I do have a teensy weensy man-crush on him). 

Fifth, the holy hand grenade of Antioch.

Third, the THIRD person who gives the answer I’m looking for (in the comments) wins his/her choice of the three books.

-- Jeff, The Philosopher King and Benevolent Smasher of Pestilential Thinking


  1. I love SMEKDAY. It's one of my absolute favorites. I'll definitely check out the Brixton Brothers--I hadn't heard of it before! (I'm not participating in the contest, but thanks for having it!)

  2. ...I don't even think *I* know what connection you're looking for. I'm going to have to check back and see if anyone gets it.

  3. Hint #1: It's not "I want to do have a drink with all these guys because they're frickin hilarious", although that is true.
    Hint #2: I'm an unagented writer.
    Hint #3: I love infinite loops (see hint #3).


    (I really like all those books and only own 1/3 of them and would be a-okay with two copies of smekday so I went out on a limb with my guess, ok?)

  5. They all have the same agent! Smekday me!!!

  6. I know, I know! Could it be Steven Malk? :)

  7. Is it literary agent Steven Malk?

  8. Hilarious books! My son already has all three, so I won't enter th econtest.

  9. And we have a winner! All three authors are represented by Steven Malk of Writers House. Amazing, yes? Slathering it on too thick? Maybe. I never said I had any shame.

    Neville, please send me your address at jeffchen1972 (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll send you one of the books. Sorry David, just a bit too late!

  10. Barbarian at the GateAugust 28, 2013 at 12:24 AM

    Steven Malk! Steven Malk! Steven Malk! If I say his name three times, I'm pretty sure that means that I win all the marbles AND a pony AND get transported back to Kansas.

  11. I like Barbarian's answer. Also, what does Steve Malk have to do with the infamous Monty Python bunny? Or do you have my totally turned around here?
    Lastly, thanks so much for the awesome recommends! I have not come across any of these books before, and am now wondering what universe I've been living in. Probably one where they say Kkk-nigget! ;)

  12. Love your recommendations. I ordered these books for our son.

  13. I like your collection and your sense of humor about telling the myth of the story. These stories are looking interesting and i a am going to order them. I am pretty sure that these books would me the Most Outstanding Epic Gifs Ever for me at my bed time.


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