May 11, 2012

Review: Riley Mack and Other Known Trouble Makers by Chris Grabenstein

On Fridays I like step back and make sure that I am addressing boy readers.  It's so easy to review and highlight books for girls, but I also teach boys, so I need to make sure to find books for them!

Today I have a book review.

Title: Riley Mack and Other Known Trouble Makers
Author: Chris Grabenstein
Publisher: HarperCollins

When former improvisational comedian and screenwriter turned award-winning mystery author Chris Grabenstein writes a kid's book, he delivers page-turning plot twists, pitch-perfect dialogue, and one-liners that pepper the text like exploding firecrackers. Riley Mack and the Other Known Troublemakers, the first book in a hilarious new action-adventure series, is a classic crime caper, a funny, fast-paced mystery/comedy with lovable characters, non-stop action—and a barnful of dogs.
Seventh-grade mastermind Riley Mack and his best buds always come to the rescue when family or friends are in trouble, even if it takes some high-octane subterfuge and fifty pounds of dog food. Kids ages 8-12 will root for Riley and his "Gnat Pack": tech-savvy Jake, dramatic Brianna, big-guy Mongo, and brainy Jamal. They'll hiss for the bad guys, too—the bully Gavin Brown; his father, Fairview's crooked police chief; his conniving grandmother, who runs a filthy puppy mill; and Fairview's gambling-addicted bank manager, who tries to frame Riley's mom. Throw in one stolen goldendoodle, two bumbling bank robbers, and plenty of duct tape, and the action never flags.

My Thoughts 

What a super cute book! Riley Mach was a fun read.  You know what it really reminded me of -the Disney movies I grew up with! Really!

Here's what I liked:

  • It started of right away! Love the whole beginning scene where the bully is taken down
  • Although the kids were a bit unrealistic I could completely buy into them.  And they were LIKABLE! Many times in a book like this the characters will be so over the top that I can't like them.  I didn't have that problem in this book.  Riley was great and so was his team of various characters.  
  • There were parents! Yes actual parents in the book.  The mom in particular was great.  It was nice to see that the parents were OK and not completely left out.
  • It has dogs!  I love dogs, so how could I not love it.  And then the cute little shaky French bulldog.  Awwwwww!
  • It's a "caper".  You know those stories.  Bad guys.  Good guys.  A plan to stop the bad guys.  Lots of action some of it silly.  Again - reminds me of a Disney movie!!!!
  • Equal parts boy and girl book.  Love that even tho the main character is a boy (Riley) so that will appeal to boys, there are some great girl characters (Briana) so girls will like it too. I'm always looking for more books like that.
  • I love books where the kids take the lead and save the day.  And that definitely happens here.  
  • Riley is such a great leader and planner, but one that lets others shine too.  What a great role model! It seems like there are several TV shows where the main characters is kinda yucky and rude and you don't see that here at all.  It's refreshing! Plus it's makes it a great book for me to recommend to my students.

OK as you can see I liked the book.  It's fun.  It has a bunch of action so it keeps the readers interested and reading (a plus for those reluctant readers!).

Final thought: A great caper in the vein of those classic Disney movies
Best stick-with-you image: The first time they see where all the dogs are.
Best for readers who: Like some action, kids that take charge and some awwwwww moments
Best for ages: 9-12
For the Guys? YES! They'll love this one.  Riley is a very likable character

Check out the book trailer.  Soooooo cute!


  1. Oh, your comparison of this one to a Disney movie has me intrigued. I imagine all sorts of Aladdin-level fun and hilarity. Nice review!

  2. This looks so cute. My kids would love it!

  3. Think I'll add this to my ten year old son's summer TBR pile. I love that my kid doesn't mind that I make book piles for him.