The Awesome, Almost 100% True Adventures of Matt & Craz

illus. by author. 336p. S & S/Aladdin. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-9432-9.
Gr 5–8—Middle-schooler Matt Worfle is organized, careful, and a bit tightly wrapped. His best friend, Larry "Craz" Crazinski, is the opposite: impulsive and messy, but fun-loving. Together they create cartoons they hope to see published in the school newspaper. When they mysteriously receive a magical pen and ink bottle, the boys discover that they can rewrite reality through their comics. However, as they quickly learn, there are sometimes disastrous and unforeseen consequences. As the result of a mix-up in the hallway, the pen is lost to a rival cartoonist who mistakenly turns the members of the student council into aliens, prompting Craz to try to rectify the situation by unleashing a swarm of giant killer bees. Punctuated throughout with Silberberg's cartoon illustrations, Matt & Craz seems to occupy a place in the popular niche with James Patterson's "Middle School" series (Little, Brown) and Lincoln Peirce's "Big Nate" (HarperCollins). The story has some clever turns and at times poignantly captures the cusp of adolescence, such as a scene in which the boys create the perfect Saturday night, for Matt pizza and a movie with classmate Cindy Ockabloom; for Craz hanging out with unhinged superhero Captain G-Force. But overall, the style is inconsistent and the presentation unbalanced. The zany premise-the pen and ink arrive through an Internet search by way of an elusive yet ever-present mystery man-is offered with no explanation or justification. Yet elsewhere the story incongruously wants to be touching or instructive, with the boys learning the importance of their imperfect families and evolving friendship.—Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA

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