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Mr. Chickee's Funny Money    by Christopher Paul Curtis order for
Mr. Chickee's Funny Money
by Christopher Paul Curtis
Order:  USA  Can
Wendy Lamb Books, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Nine-year old Steven sits on the bank of the Flint River - soaking wet. Tears gush from his eyes like waterfalls, his friend is gone. Kearsley Dam is a drop of two hundred and fifty feet, but Steven can't bring himself to say the word beginning and ending with the letter 'd'. Six Treasury Department agents are on site. One talks to his wrist watch, 'Come in, base, Agent One here, I've got an injury at the bottom of the dam. Subject A Three has suffered a possible concussion'. In reply he hears, 'One, is A Three in possession of the item? Does he still have it?' So the tale opens. But these events actually take place at the end of an adventure in the life of gifted, second-smartest in his class Steven, his friend Russell, and a humongous dog named Zoopy, of whom Russell's dad says, 'his mother must've been a hippopotamus and his father was probably a bear.'

It all starts when blind Othello Chickee gives Steven a quadrillion dollar bill with entertainer James Brown's picture on one side (Steven's dad is a big fan of the 'Godfather of Soul' music) and a U. S. Treasury Department Seal on the other. Steven helps Othello do his grocery shopping, and they are best friends. One day, Mr. Chickee tells Steven he's taking a trip to Philadelphia, and hands him an envelope, saying 'I wanted to give you a special thanks for always being so helpful and so cheerful ... Remember ... It's not what you think it is.' Steven is founder, president, CEO and secretary of the 'Flint Future Detectives Club'. He wonders about the quadrillion dollar bill. Is it real, and what should he do with it? So he consults his great grandfather's dictionary, which 'talks to him'. When Steven notices the dictionary getting very heavy, grampa's note reads: 'Of course I'm getting heavier, language is something that never stops growing so I'm adding new words all the time.' Steven and Dad visit the Treasury Department to consult with not too-brainy agent Fondoo. When Steven asks the agent if he knows who James Brown is, it wakes him up - just moments before the meeting, Agent Fondoo scoffed at a 'Super Duper Top-Secret' memorandum from the home office - about quadrillion dollar bills.

You just have to read this amazing book. I did in one sitting, unable to tear myself away from its snowballing hilarity. Mr. Chickee's Funny Money is inventive, ingenuous, and with a lot of moola. Learn about 'Double Dutch Mind-Locking', James Brown's music, the unusual rules of the Treasury Department (at least as represented here), the island of 'Boom-Chaka-Lakalaka', and events leading up to the bombshell Flint River ending. You'll cheer to the end, and imagine James Brown's big smile and wonderful talent. I plan to pass the book along to my grandson Steven (yup, same name as the story's hero), and know I will hear the laughter from miles away, as he and his Mom read the book together. Oh yes, the ending also leaves Steven and his agency with a list of related mysteries to investigate, so there's more to come.

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