09 April, 2013

The Fourth Stall - Review

The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander
Publication date: 08 Feb 2011 by Walden Pond Press
ISBN 10/13: 0061994960 | 9780061994968
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

Category: Middle Grade Mystery
Keywords: Middle grade, mystery, friendship, bullying, Mafia
Format: Hardcover, paperback, eBook
Source: Borrowed

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Chris Rylander delivers a funny Ferris Bueler-style middle grade novel with The Fourth Stall.

Do you need something? Mac can get it for you. It's what he does—he and his best friend and business manager, Vince. Their methods might sometimes run afoul of the law, or at least the school code of conduct, but if you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can pay him, Mac is on your side. His office is located in the East Wing boys' bathroom, fourth stall from the high window. And business is booming.

Or at least it was, until one particular Monday. It starts with a third grader in need of protection. And before this ordeal is over, it's going to involve a legendary high school crime boss named Staples, an intramural gambling ring, a graffiti ninja, the nine most dangerous bullies in school, and the first Chicago Cubs World Series game in almost seventy years. And that's just the beginning. Mac and Vince soon realize that the trouble with solving everyone else's problems is that there's no one left to solve yours.


The Fourth Stall is a hilarious play on The Godfather set in an elementary school. The Godfather in question is Mac, short for MacGuyver because he’s the guy that can get you anything. And the fourth stall is and empty bathroom stall where he conducts his business. The empire is run by a small sixth grader and his best friend who loan out their services helping solve the problems of their fellow classmates for a small fee. Their business is threatened when the mysterious kingpin, Staples, starts a gambling ring at their school. Using tough high school kids and bully tactics, Staples plans on taking Mac and his friends down. Loyalties are tested when Mac finds out that there’s a mole in his organization. Can Mac hold the business together and flush out the rat at the same time or is this the end of his career? And will the Cubs make it to the World series this year?

Each person in Mac’s crew had a distinct personality and I loved reading the bios of the various school bullies. I am partial to Kitten, the small and polite sociopath, who is ruthless and more than a little scary. I definitely don’t want to get on his bad side. And it was cool to see Mac band the bullies together in order to deal with Staples. I had some mixed feelings the violence in this book. On one hand, it was pretty graphic (especially for the middle grade reader that I think this book is aimed at) but on the other hand, I think there had to be real consequences to their actions in order to make the story work. And though Mac ends up using strong arm tactics to aid his own cause, he doesn't feel good about it. While the book doesn't glorify violence in the schoolyard, it doesn't shy away from it either.
What drew me in though was the friendship between Mac and his best friend Vince. Their easy rapport and camaraderie seemed genuine. They were a bit like an old married couple and I was really worried when their friendship was threatened. Ultimately this is a story about friendship and family. And though I am not a sports fan, I found their dedication and obsession with The Cubs to be funny and endearing. It almost made to me want to watch a baseball game. ;)

Visit the author online at www.chrisrylander.com and follow him on Twitter @chris_rylander

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  1. My boy students in 5th grade LOVE this book. I'm sad I won't get to meet Chris when he's in town as I have grad classes. Also, since I'm in the Chicago suburbs I think my students connect to the Cubs fans' cynicism that rides throughout the book. Love love love this book and need to read the follow ups. :)

  2. i can totally see boys that age loving this book. i actually read aloud to a 4th grader once a week and this would be a great book to read to him. and i have no interest in baseball but their obsession with the cubs cracks me up. that's awesome that your students can relate to their obsession.

    i need to read the followups, too. i have them both here just waiting to be read. i am sure they will be just as fun as this one.