Fake Mustache: how Jodie O’Rodeo and Her Wonder Horse (And Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election From a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind)
By Tom Angleberger
Illustrated by Jen Wang
Amulet Books (an imprint of Abrams)
On shelves April 1, 2012
I said it about Laini Taylor. I said it about Jeff Kinney. Heck, I even said it about J.K. Rowling and now, my friends, I’m saying it about Tom Angleberger: I was into him before it was cool. Seriously, a show of hands, how many of you out there can say that you read his first middle grade novel The Qwikpick Adventure Society written under the pen name of Sam Riddleberger? See, that’s what I though. I did and it was hilarious, thank you very much. The kind of thing you read and love and wish more people knew (plus it involved a poop fountain. I kid you not). Years passed and at long last Tom got his due thanks to a little unassuming title by the name of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. By the time Darth Paper Strikes Back came out, Mr. Angleberger was a certifiable hit with the 9-12 year old set. Fortunately for all of us he hasn’t rested on his laurels quite yet. He’s still willing to stretch a little and get seriously wacky when he wants to. Case in point, Fake Mustache. Just your average everyday twelve-year-old-takes-over-the-world title, Tom’s desire for total and complete goofiness finds a home here. I was into Tom before everyone else was, but considering how much fun Fake Mustache is I guess I’m willing to share him a little.
If he hadn’t lent Casper the measly ten bucks then it’s pretty certain that Lenny Flem Jr. wouldn’t have found himself pairing up with famous television star and singer Jodie O’Rodeo to defeat the evil genius Fako Mustacho. You see, Casper wanted to buy a mustache. And not just any mustache, mind you, but the extremely rare (and luxurious) Heidelberg Handlebar #7. A mustache so powerful, in fact, that when Casper puts it on he’s capable of convincing anyone of anything. Now Casper, posing as Fako Mustacho, has set his sights on the U.S. presidency and only Lenny and Jodie are willing and able to defeat him.
To read this book, kid or adult, you need to have somewhere to safely place your disbelief. I recommend storing it in the rafters of your home. Failing that, launch it into the stratosphere because logic is not going to be your friend when you read this. Literal-minded children would do well to perhaps avoid this book. The ideal reader would be one who reads for pleasure and who enjoys a tale that knows how to have a bit of fun with its internal logic. Once that’s taken care of you’ll be able to really get into Angleberger’s wordplay. He throws in just a ton of fun details that are worth repeating. Things like the fact that the state legislature tends to meet in the local Chinese buffet restaurant because “They used to meet in our fancy gold-domed capitol building, but they kept trashing the bathrooms and got kicked out.” Or take the old man who uses a form of swearing worthy of Yosemite Sam himself: “Leave those hats alone, you FarDobbled Candy-Bar-Selling Punkler!” Silliness abounds.
There are books out there where siblings or parents turn out to be untrustworthy, and they do a good job of striking fear in the hearts of their little readers. Personally, though, I find the books where the villain is the hero’s best friend to be a lot more interesting. After all, isn’t that something that actually happens to a lot of kids around the age of twelve? One day your best friend is the person you’ve always known. The next they seem like some kind of supervillain, intent on ruining your life. Angleberger sort of takes this idea to its logical extreme, but he’s not harping on the metaphor like I am. After all, this book is a comedy at its core.
One of the shockers of the book is that a little more than halfway through the point of view changes. One minute you’re happily following hapless Lenny and the next you’re in the head of Jodie O’Rodeo herself. One of Mr. Angleberger’s finer talents is writing books that are just as popular amongst girls as they are boys. I credit his ability to create female characters that are more than just talking creatures with long eyelashes. For example, in this book Jodie may at first appear to be no more than a combination of Taylor Swift and iCarly but in fact she probably has more in common with Annie Oakley than anyone else. The fact that we bust into her head at the 5/8ths mark suggests to me that Angleberger is being a sneaky pete. I think we’ve all encountered those boy readers who refuse to pick up a book if they see it stars a girl. Well imagine their faces when they’re thoroughly enmeshed in Angleberger’s story only to hit the old switcheroo at Chapter 37. With any luck they’ll be too interested in the story to care all that much, and in the process they’ll find themselves reading the thoughts and impressions of a gal willing to pull a rescue mission at the drop of a hat. Awesome.
The book uses a plethora of contemporary words, terms, and phrases that threaten its longevity. On the one hand, I really appreciated that Casper was capable of making use of the employees of Burger King and not some generic fast food enterprise that doesn’t actually exist. On the other hand, I worry that some of the more recent phrases in the book will date it in a couple years. I say that, but there were some jokes in this book that I wouldn’t remove for all the fake mustaches in the world. For example, at one point Casper appropriates the term “Rock the Vote” in such a hilarious manner that even if the folks of the future don’t get it it’s nice that we can now. Ditto the sentence, “We’re too big to fail”, as spoken by the villain asking for a government handout.
Not all books read aloud particularly well. This one would. As I read it to myself I kept resisting the urge to try out passages on my tongue (though considering that I read most of it on the New York public subway system, I doubt I would have stood out all that much). It’s the rare title that’s funny to kids and adults and reads just as well in the head of a ten-year-old as it does on the lips of a fifth grade teacher. I think he’s got enough books out by this point that you can label this title “classic Angleberger” through and through. Definitely a book for the discerning first-class man-about-town slash girl-about town slash boy-about-town slash woman-about-town. Which is to say, fun for the whole family. Seriously.
Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.
First Sentence: “You may remember seeing me on TV when Jodie O’Rodeo saved the world.”
Like This? Then Try:
- The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
- The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel Pinkwater (which gets a shout-out in this book, no less)
Other Blog Reviews: Educating Alice