James Proimos, Author . Scholastic $14.95 (87p) ISBN 978-0-439-41681-8

Proimos uses a format similar to his Johnny Mutton, He's So Him (the trim size of a beginning reader but with themes more appropriate to slightly older readers) and proposes that a timid greenhorn can triumph in middle school, in this case by assuming the cool persona of Cowboy Boy. Ricky V. Smootz—who jokes that "the V stands for Very Afraid"—starts sixth grade in abject fear of an older, stubble-haired bully named Keanu Dungston. Keanu's primary instrument of terror is "not just your regular standard wedgie. He lifts your underwear out the back and up over your head." Ricky receives one of these "superwedgies" the moment he sets foot in the comically named Richard M. Nixon Middle School, and he knows that he and Keanu are fixing for a showdown. When he calls his grandmother for advice, she mentions "Crazy Enzio," a loopy cowboy character who carries "loaves of Italian bread" in his holsters. In an unlikely twist, Ricky successfully models himself on Crazy Enzio, wearing a ten-gallon hat, vest and boots on the bus; he speaks with a twang and, most effectively, disarms the tough kids by cracking scatological jokes. "I had come up with a breakthrough theory," Ricky says. "[Bullies] found humor having to do with biological functions completely irresistible." While shouting non sequiturs like "Big Poopy Diapers!," as Ricky does, won't smooth every social encounter, Proimos uses this unserious tale to dispense helpful tips. The plot is convoluted, and the author resorts to the easiest humor (a "Baby-Wet-My-Pants" doll figures in the climax), but the hero reaches out to those shaking in their boots about middle school. Ages 8-12. (July)

Reviewed on: 07/07/2003
Release date: 07/01/2003
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