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Mudshark    by Gary Paulsen order for
by Gary Paulsen
Order:  USA  Can
Wendy Lamb Books, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Gary Paulsen's Mudshark is set in a lively, chaotic and quirky middle school. It stars supercool twelve-year-old Lyle Williams, nicknamed Mudshark for his lightning fast reflexes and renowned ability to find what's missing. How did these talents develop? Mudshark has triplet baby sisters - Tara, Sara and Kara - who keep him on his toes while honing his observation and analytic skills.

Chapters begin with increasingly curious (and curiosity arousing) announcements from the principal. They clue readers in to odd school happenings, including: a gerbil that's gone walkabout and a gerbil hunter in the ductwork; the toxic state of the faculty restroom; and the mystery of missing erasers. While all this simmers, joyous but unhinged Ms. Underdorf imports a parrot to her library. It soon is answering questions that used to be asked of Mudshark. Kids believe it's psychic! Will it become the 'undisputed answer champion'?

Before a conclusion can be reached, the principal himself consults Mudshark about the missing erasers. This middle school Sherlock soon tracks them down, but then seeks a way to protect the engaging thief - who's simply trying to hold on to peace and beauty - from the loudmouth parrot and the 'zero-toerance world'. The sleuth enlists helpers and soon sets Operation Eraser Return in motion.

I highly recommend Paulsen's Mudshark to the chapter book crowd and anyone else who enjoys a most imaginative middle school spoof/mystery.

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