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Charley Maplewood has never been one for parties? that would require friends, which he doesn?t have. But now that he?s turning ten?the big oneoh? he decides to throw a birthday party for himself. Of course things don?t work out as he plans. In trying to make friends, he ends up inviting the class bully, and that?s before he ruins the cake and sets the garage on fire. Will Charley be able to pull it together before the big one-oh . . . becomes the big OH-NO?
In this debut novel from song- and screenwriter Pitchford, a boy relates the sometimes funny, sometimes moving story of how he planned his 10th birthday party. The thought of having a party had not occurred to narrator Charley until he gets a card from his father (who left home three years earlier) asking, "What are you going to do on your big day?" Fearful that he has too much in common with his loner neighbor Garry (the boy refers to them as "two friendless freaks"), Charley vows "to throw the best party in the history oftheworld!" He organizes his plans into a Birthday Notebook, and entry #1 reads, "Make friends." Ironically, the lad does befriend Garry, who used to create special effects for movies and now spends his days making body parts out of latex in his garage. Charley, a devoted fan of Monsters & Maniacs magazine, decides to throw a horror-themed party, an idea his so-called friends at school think is cool. Just when it looks like Charley's big day is doomed, Garry comes to the rescue, in a riotous scene that calls upon the man's expertise. Pitchford develops likable, believable lead characters (Charley's beleaguered mother and caustic older sister play strong supporting roles), but some of Charley's peers act and speak in voices that seem older than those of 10-year-olds (e.g., at the start of the party, the class bully announces, "I've been to bar mitzvahs that were scarier"). Overall, however, this is entertaining fare. Ages 8-up.