Competitive eating vies with family expectations in a funny, heartfelt novel for middle-grade readers by National Book Award winner Pete Hautman.
David can eat an entire sixteen-inch pepperoni pizza in four minutes and thirty-six seconds. Not bad. But he knows he can do better. In fact, he’ll have to do better: he’s going to compete in the Super Pigorino Bowl, the world’s greatest pizza-eating contest, and he has to win it, because he borrowed his mom’s credit card and accidentally spent $2,000 on it. So he really needs that prize money. Like, yesterday. As if training to be a competitive eater weren’t enough, he’s also got to keep an eye on his little brother, Mal (who, if the family believed in labels, would be labeled autistic, but they don’t, so they just label him Mal). And don’t even get started on the new weirdness going on between his two best friends, Cyn and HeyMan. Master talent Pete Hautman has cooked up a rich narrative shot through with equal parts humor and tenderness, and the result is a middle-grade novel too delicious to put down.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Negative attitudes toward someone with autism
Booklist starred (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 5-8. Jack-of-all-genres Hautman turns to the mouthwatering, madcap world of competitive eating. Narrator David admires the greats: Joey Chestnut, who can down 70 dogs in 10 minutes; Takeru Kobayashi, a Guinness Record-holding lightweight; and his personal favorite, Jooky Garofalo—who legendarily lost a Nathan’s Famous championship by one single half dog. David can’t believe when Jooky’s unfinished dog appears on auction site BuyBuy.com. And he’s floored when his bid for the “piece of history” wins. Unfortunately, one mistyped decimal point means BuyBuy just charged $2,000—not $20—to his mother’s credit card. David may be able to inhale a single pizza in under five minutes, but to win the Super Pigorino Bowl’s $5,000 grand prize—and repay his mom—he’ll have to train like never before. More than a story of stomach-shattering determination, this is also an unflinching exploration of David’s bond with little brother Mal, who, though their mother forbids the label, has been diagnosed with autism. With crystalline prose, delectable detail, rip-roaring humor, and larger-than-life characters, Hautman gracefully examines what it means to be a friend, a family member, and, through it all, a kid trying to do the right thing. Readers will race to devour it, but like Papa Pigorino’s colossal BDT pizzas, this infectious tale is a thing to be savored.
Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2017)
When David accidentally bids $2,000 instead of $20 on a “historic half hot dog” online with his mother’s credit card, he knows he’s dead meat. In a panic, he formulates a plan: enter competitive eating contests and use his winnings to pay his mother back, ideally before she finds out about the charge. Indulging in his particular talent distracts him from life at home; eating astoundingly large quantities of food in impossibly short time spans is obviously not quite the success his older sister, Bridgette, has achieved in college, nor is it the small triumphs of his autistic younger brother, Mal, but David takes pride in it nonetheless. He also takes pride in caring for Mal, even if the responsibility chafes on occasion, and makes some headway with Mal’s increased socialization–Mal travels further with fewer meltdowns when he is wearing sunglasses, for instance, and David also uncovers a pattern to the characteristics that make food appealing to his brother. Despite the often-nauseating drama around the eating contests, the first-person narrative explores the two brothers’ relationship in a nuanced way (except for the main character’s occasional use of ableist language: “With the enormous glasses and his headphones and his hoodie, [Mal] looks like a normal kid pretending to be a rap star”) as David becomes more attuned to Mal’s perspective and ways of communicating. anastasia m. collins
About the Author
Pete Hautman is the author of Godless, which won the National Book Award, and many other critically acclaimed books for teens and adults, including Blank Confession, All-In, Rash, No Limit, and Invisible. Mr. Hautman was nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America. Pete lives in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
His website is www.petehautman.com.
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