cover image Johnny Hangtime

Johnny Hangtime

Dan Gutman. HarperCollins, $5.99 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-380-81012-3

Gutman's (Babe and Me) latest novel introduces a 13-year-old with a career that kids will surely find cool: he's a ""stuntkid,"" performing daring feats on behalf of Ricky Corvette, a teen movie star and heartthrob. Johnny's father, a legendary stuntman, allegedly died three years earlier while filming a daring maneuver over Niagara Falls. The plot moves between Johnny's stints on the set of New York Nightmare (including some behind-the-scenes revelations about pulling off seemingly impossible stunts) and his non-working life, which entails being roughed-up by the school bully. The boy's flip, first-person narrative will endear him to readers (""I was having such a good time that I nearly forgot to open my parachute. This can be dangerous, as you might imagine""). The tale culminates in a dangerous stunt at--where else--Niagara Falls, and though the credibility of Gutman's plot crumbles (Johnny's long-lost father appears on the set, begging his son to forgo the stunt; Ricky Corvette suddenly decides, for the first time ever, to perform his own action scene, and breaks both his arms and legs in the process), the author sets the scene for a sappy Hollywood ending, and a kid-pleasing wrap. Ages 8-12. (July)