A summer of big steps
Tamera Ann Simpson is, in a word, grumpy—the fifth grader doesn’t get along with anyone, especially the annoying Douglas McGinty, or as she calls him, “Muscle Man.” What sets Tammy’s teeth on edge is the boy’s tendency to tell whoppers about himself. For instance, who would believe that a 10-year-old is training for the 1972 Olympics? When the whoppers get out of this world, Tammy decides that enough is enough.
In Nan Marino’s Neil Armstrong is My Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me, it’s the summer of 1969 in Tammy’s little town on the outskirts of New York City, a typical slice of American culture. Tammy’s neighbor, Mr. Grabowsky, is lawn-obsessive; Mr. Pizzarelli, the police officer, loves to sing at barbeques; one of her classmates is driven to collect Barbie dolls; and everyone is talking about the moon landing. Yet all of these things are small change to Tammy, who has decided that the kid who took her best friend’s place at a local foster home is her worst enemy.
Readers soon realize that while Tammy has her share of problems, none of them are caused by the mindlessly cheerful Muscle Man. It will take tragedy and a surprising revelation for Tammy to see the light—moonlight, that is. Neil Armstrong is my Uncle is a lovingly portrayed look at life during a memorable time in American history; it deserves to be on your child’s summer reading list.