Author: Gary Paulsen
Source: Local Library
He's like Encyclopedia Brown, but with a cooler nickname. Twelve-year-old Lyle "Mudshark" Williams is a master of observation, noticing what nobody else bothers to see and putting all the pieces together. This has made him the go-to guy for missing items and various conundra in his very crazy school. Missing your homework? Check the bushes by the step where you were sitting this morning. Lost your brain? (Don't worry, it's plastic.) Try the pool where you were swimming yesterday, and where nobody will now go in the deep end. Yep, Mudshark knows all, sees all, and doesn't even charge.
But that's before the librarian gets a Psychic Parrot. All of a sudden, Mudshark is dethroned in favor of a bird that burps before each prediction. He wouldn't be human if he didn't admit he was kind of annoyed by this. But when the principal asks him to solve the mystery of the missing erasers, Mudshark discovers that if the parrot solves it before he does, he's not the only one who could suffer.
I always enjoy Gary Paulsen, but I'm used to him as an adventure writer. Mudshark reminds me that the guy can be very, very funny. This book captures and exaggerates the life of a school, from the terrifying science lab to the equally terrifying lunches, from the mysterious custodian to the "wonderfully unhinged" librarian (hee!). Besides all that, there's the general level of kookiness you get when you confine three hundred under-twelves in one building for nine months. My favorite sections were the principal's announcements that served as hilarious chapter headers, keeping us up-to-date on the missing gerbil from room 206, the rapidly deteriorating state of the faculty restroom, and various other seeming one-off jokes that play into the story at a later date. This slim, fast-moving story is a sure thing for fans of Encyclopedia Brown, Wayside School, and Paulsen's other work.