Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me Review
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When I was a kid, I loved to read stories about other kids my ageónormal kids who did cool things like solving mysteries or touring a chocolate factory. But thatís not the kind of character that young readers will encounter in Nan Marinoís Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me. Ten-year-old Tammy Simpson isnít really an extraordinary kid. Sheís just a girl who misses her best friend.

Life on Ramble Street hasnít been the same since Kebsie Grobsers left. Kebsie was a foster kid who lived across the street with Mrs. Kutchner. She was fun and outgoing, and she didnít care about prissy MaryBeth Grabowsky and her Barbies. Then, one day, she was gone. In her place was scrawny Douglas ďMuscle ManĒ McGinty, a weasely kid who lies about everything, though no one but Tammy seems to notice. But when he challenges the entire neighborhood to a game of kickball, Tammy decides that itís time to show everyone else what a big liar Muscle Man McGinty really is.

Set in New York in the summer of 1969 and told from Tammyís point of view, Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me tells the story of a lonely little girl who takes her frustrations out on the new kid on the block. Along the way, it teaches young readers about friendship and loss, as well as offering some history lessons about the moon landing and the Vietnam War.

But Neil Armstrong isnít the light, entertaining read that I used to love as a kid. Itís a melancholy story, tackling issues like jealousy, death, and friends who just go away without saying goodbye. Sure, there are kickball games and the distant tinkling tunes of the ice cream truckóbut, for the most part, Tammyís life is pretty sad. Her parents ignore her, her older brother moved away (and, on the rare occasions that he does come home for a visit, all he does is argue with her dad), and her best friend is gone. To add insult to injury, she lives next door to perfect MaryBeth and her perfect family.

Meanwhile, the characters arenít exactly likeable. From the snotty neighbors to Tammyís indifferent parents to the annoying new kid, the young narrator does a pretty good job of making her readers dislike just about everyone in her neighborhood. And even though youíll feel sorry for Tammy, her anger and bitterness often make her difficult to stomach. Thereís just no one here to root for.

Neil Armstrong is My Uncle tells an unusual storyóand it teaches some important lessons, too. But itís a heavy read that leaves a somewhat bitter aftertasteóand that might make it a difficult read for young readers.

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