For a fee, Mac will solve the problems of every kid in school, from first grade to eighth grade. His office? It’s in the fourth stall of the East Wing boys’ bathroom. Office hours are held during recess when kids will get let in to have Mac evaluate their needs.
At Mac’s right hand is Vince, all around numbers kid and manager. He’s in charge of the books and also prompts Mac to take on certain problems for free. There’s also Joe, the seventh grade strongman, and a number of informants and former clients who owe Mac.
Mac and Vince started their business taking down playground bullies at their local park with the well-timed arrival of a football coach. From there they moved business to some large schoolyard tires and then to the fourth stall after orchestrating the take down of the Graffiti Ninja for the janitor. It always pays to have a janitor on your side.
When Mac takes on a case protecting Fred, a diminutive third-grader, from rumor legend Staples, he gets a lot more than he bargained for. His network of connections is faltering from kids who owe Staples too much and their appears to be a snitch in the system. Mac’s plans are being thwarted as they unfold, the bullies he hires are beaten and everything is falling apart.
One thing I really enjoyed about this book is that nobody is really a clear cut hero. Mac isn’t a saint, but he’s not a supervillain either. He’s trying to protect his behind the scenes business, but money isn’t his bottom line. The friendship and history between Mac and Vince built into the story makes the break of trust that occurs that much more painful. The friendship comes across as very realistic, with ups, downs, and reconciliation.
The antics and plans of the boys in this book make this an entertaining read. I loved the unexpected moments, such as a rickety bicycle squad to the rescue. Mac is a witty narrator. For example, one of his observations was “You could always count on Kitten to bring a flamethrower to roast a marshmallow.”
I would recommend this book to fourth grade on up. It may appeal to Andrew Clements fans as well as readers of My Life As a Book and the Strange Case of Origami Yoda.
I received this book as a GoodReads First Reads giveaway.
You can find more about the author of The Fourth Stall at http://www.chrisrylander.com