My Life as a Joke

illus. by Jake Tashjian. 272p. (My Life: Bk. 4) Holt. 2014. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9780805098501. LC 2013046395.
Gr 4–8—Twelve-year-old Derek Fallon resolves to take life more seriously, but of course, things never go Derek's way, resulting in many humorous situations. An exciting frog dissection lesson goes horribly wrong as Derek sends his frog flying through the air and onto the teacher, and he winds up fainting in front of the class. After trying to show off on a rope in gym class, he smacks the floor with his face and busts his lip so badly that it causes him to be unable to correctly pronounce the words in a speech he has to give. He is laughed out of the auditorium after a mangled rendition of the national anthem. Having volunteered to help in a toy drive, he is assigned to collect dolls, resulting in more ridicule as he gathers Barbies and baby dolls. One of the dolls contributed is one he recognizes as a collector's item. He and his friends, Matt and Umberto, hatch a plan to sell the doll on eBay for some easy money. Of course, it doesn't go as planned, and Derek is faced with refunding the money after it is already spent. Readers will connect with likable Derek and his efforts to improve himself that don't ever go right. Adding to the fast-paced chapters are his vocabulary journal illustrations, which showcase his take on life. It's sure to be a hit with fans of the previous installments.—Laura Fields Eason, Henry F. Moss Middle School, Bowling Green, KY
In his fourth appearance, twelve-year-old Derek resolves to appear more mature, but he's constantly a laughingstock: he faints in class, lisps in assembly, and the "Monster Truck" he rents is really a bounce house. Derek's concern for a neighbor leads to a selfless, mature act. Fans will enjoy the fast plot, Derek's supportive friends, and cartoon marginalia representing Derek's ever-expanding collection of vocabulary words.

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