“Charlie’s life will resonate with readers trying to navigate the simple but realistic perils of elementary school. Making friends, getting along with siblings, avoiding trouble at school—these situations matter to young readers, and Harley captures these emotions with a light and humorous touch.” —Kirkus Reviews

Ages 7 – 10
Series Themes: Family, Cooperation, Responsibility, Friendship

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The Books

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Charlie Bumpers’s worst fear is confirmed: he has Mrs. Burke for fourth grade. How will he survive a year with the strictest teacher in the whole school?

Shortly before school starts, Charlie Bumpers learns that he will be in Mrs. Burke’s class. It doesn’t matter that she’s been named Teacher of the Year. He’s still afraid of her. Last year when he was horsing around in the hall, he accidentally hit her in the head with his sneaker (don’t ask). The exasperated teacher declared that if anything like that ever happened again, Charlie would be banned from recess forever. How will he survive a year under a teacher who is just waiting for him to make another stupid mistake?

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Teacher’s Guide

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Charlie is ready to play the bad guy in the class play, but Mrs. Burke has other ideas!

Charlie Bumpers has his heart set on playing the role of the evil Sorcerer in the fourth grade play. But his dreams of villainous stardom go up in smoke when he finds out that Mrs. Burke has cast him as the Nice Gnome! Determined to rectify this terrible injustice, Charlie concocts one plan after another, but nothing seems to work.

To make matters worse, his dad has assigned chores to all the kids in the family and Charlie’s job is walking Ginger―the diggiest, sniffiest, and poopiest dog in the universe. Can Charlie deal with these challenges without causing havoc all around him?

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Can Charlie face his fear of horror movies and enjoy Halloween?

Charlie and Tommy have big plans for Halloween. They’re going to trick-or-treat and sleep over at Alex’s house. But when Charlie finds out that the entertainment at the party will be the “Scariest Horror Movies Ever,” he is struck by panic. Charlie loves candy, he loves sleepovers with his friends, but he absolutely hates horror movies.

There is yet another wrinkle in Charlie’s Halloween plans. He is determined to win the big prize (ten movie tickets) that will be awarded for the best costume, but when he finally comes up with a genius prize-winning idea, he runs into an unexpected obstacle. How will Charlie be able to enjoy Halloween this year?

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Can Charlie be a polite host to the most annoying little cousin in the universe?

It’s Thanksgiving in the Bumpers’ household and Charlie has to be the perfect host to his annoying little cousin, Chip. Chip makes everything hard for Charlie―gets him in trouble, ruins his things, and generally makes a nuisance of himself. On top of that, for homework, Mrs. Burke has assigned Charlie the task of writing what a family is to him. How will Charlie be able to see past his “turkey” of a cousin to understand the real meaning of family?

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Charlie Bumpers is finally on the same soccer team as his two best friends, and they’re sure the Pirates will be the best team ever! But their high hopes are crushed on the first day of practice.

Not only do they have a bunch of shrimpy and inexperienced teammates, their new coach doesn’t believe in star players. The first few games are a big disappointment to Charlie. So, if they can’t be on a winning team, Charlie thinks, maybe he, Tommy, and Hector can at least win the prize for selling the most candy bars for the fundraiser. But after a series of near catastrophes, Charlie and his friends learn that hotshot plays and gimmicky sales techniques aren’t as effective as hard work, honesty, and cooperation.

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When Charlie exaggerates about his dad’s career and convinces his classmates that his dad would be the greatest Career Week speaker ever, what will happen if his dad actually does come and his friends find out the truth?

When his classmates are boasting about their parents’ jobs, Charlie gets carried away and leaves the impression that his accountant dad is not only the president of his company but also that he will hand out free calculators to everyone. With rumors flying around the school and expectations escalating, Charlie jumps the gun and tells his teacher Mrs. Burke that his dad can speak to their class during Career Week. Now Charlie has no choice. He has to get his dad to come in. But then, just before the big event Mr. Bumpers loses his job. Charlie is dumbfounded and devastated. How will he explain to his class? Will his dad still come in during Career Week? Fortunately, Mr. Bumpers has some very surprising plans of his own.

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Coming April 1st in Hardcover

Charlie is cooking up some wacky plans to keep his friend Hector from returning to Chile, but when he learns that some classmates are bullying Hector, he turns all his energy to solving that problem.

When Charlie learns that Hector’s family is moving back to Chile at the end of the year, he is crushed. With Tommy’s help, he immediately starts cooking up schemes to keep Hector here, including a campaign to get him selected as next year’s School Ambassador. (Surely Hector will have to stay, Charlie reasons, if he has such an important job.) As usual, Charlie’s schemes lead to one near-disaster after another.

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The Author

Bill Harley

Bill Harley is a two-time Grammy Award-winning storyteller, musician, and writer who has been writing and performing for kids and families for more than twenty-five years. He is the recipient of Parents’ Choice and ALA awards. He won a 2007 Grammy Award for his children’s storytelling album Blah Blah Blah and a 2009 Grammy Award for his children’s spoken-word album Yes to Running! Bill Harley Live. He lives in Massachusetts. You can visit his website here.

The Illustrator

Adam Gustavson

Adam Gustavson is the illustrator of more than twenty books for children, as well as numerous periodicals. He holds a master of fine arts degree from the School of Visual Arts in New York, and teaches at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He lives in New Jersey. You can visit his website here.

Meet Charlie

My name is Charlie Bumpers and I’m in fourth grade.

I’ve got a dog named Ginger — she’s our family dog, but mostly mine, since I feed her and walk her, and also have to clean up after her, if you know what I mean.

I am, unfortunately, stuck in the middle of our family — my brother Matt is two years older and thinks he’s the boss of everything, including me. He’s wrong, but he’ll never admit it. He’s also pretty funny, which I like when he is not making jokes about me. He also knows a lot of stuff and has a lot of ideas. Some of them are good.

My sister Mabel is six. My dad always calls her “the Squirt” but I call her “the Squid” and you should, too, since it’s funnier, though it might get her mad. And she has a temper! She is a little sister, so of course she is annoying, and when we fight I am the one who gets blamed.

Neither Matt or the Squid are leaving soon, so I have to live with them. When you’re nine years old, you don’t get to make

Schuler

decisions, like who you live with or whether you can stay up until nine-thirty or even ten, which Matt gets to do.

What do I like? Soccer. A lot. I play on a team in the fall, and also played on a team last spring though it’s hard to decide because I like baseball, too, and my mom says I can only do one of them. They should invent a game called baseball-soccer and that would solve my problem.

One thing I do that drives my parents crazy is kick the soccer ball against the side of the garage. Once I kicked it too hard and broke a pane out of a window. My dad made me pay for the new glass. It cost seven dollars and eighty-four cents. He said that ought to teach me a lesson. I still kick the ball at the garage when he is not there, but I have not broken another window. Yet.

I also like ping-pong and wish my family would get a table like my friend Tommy Kasten has in his basement, which is great, except when he hits it just right and the pole gets in the way. He practices that shot and it drives me crazy.

Tommy also has an X-box with a bunch of games. I tell Dad that Tommy is obviously not ruined by having an X-box, so I would not be ruined either. My dad says “How convenient! You have a place to play whatever you play on an X-box.” Ha ha ha. Matt is united with me in our pleas for an X-box, but our parents are dictators and horrible people. That’s what Matt says even though he doesn’t mean it (I told you he was funny).

Tommy is my best friend. He lives nine blocks from me, which I know because I counted. And I have walked there a couple of times. His sister Carla is friends with the Squid, which works out pretty well as long as they’re not in the same room with us. Or maybe even in the same house. Sometimes I go to Tommy’s house to play, and Carla comes to our house, so we are nine blocks away from little sisters — which is a good distance. Except if they were in Antarctica, which might be better.

I have three video games I can play on the computer, and my favorite one is “Dark World,” which my mom doesn’t like. She bought it for me even though she doesn’t like it. I won that time. But she won, too, because I only get half an hour a day to play it. I keep trying to tell her it’s educational, but she doesn’t believe me.

Buck Meson

My favorite TV show is Buck Meson — Detective from Andromeda. Buck Meson is a superhero who came from another planet to solve mysteries on earth. He can do this great thing with his eyes — shoot beams of electrons at people so they drop whatever weapons they’re holding. He never uses his power to hurt anyone. When the bad guys are about to do something really terrible, Buck always says, “I DON’T THINK SO!” Then he does his electron stare. It’s pretty cool.

Every summer we go to a cabin on the lake up north for two weeks. My mom, Matt, Mabel, Ginger, and I stay for the whole time, then my dad comes for the second week. The cabin belonged to my great-grandfather and great-grandmother, who I never met. There are four families that share the cabin — my different cousins and aunts and uncles — that’s why we just get two weeks a summer. There is not even a TV there, so I couldn’t play X-box even if I had one. There is a canoe and a rowboat, though. And fishing poles. And a lot of floats and a wooden raft that you we swim out to. There are loons on the lake and this summer, they made a nest very near our cabin. The baby loons hatched while we were there, and that night the mom and dad loons made noises all night. It sounds scary until you’re used to it, then you love it.

The summer is when my mom reads to us — at night before we go to sleep. Even Matt still listens sometimes. If he makes too many dumb comments about the story, though, Mom makes him leave. Mom used to read to me every night, but hasn’t done it in the past year. She still reads to the Squid. I wish she would read to me, but I feel like I shouldn’t bother her. I can read for myself, though it’s not the same. She reads better.

Another thing I want is a drum set. My parents keep saying “We’ll see,” which means “We hope you forget.” And my mom asked me if I wouldn’t rather play the piano. I said no, I want to play the drums.

That is all I have to say about myself, except for what I say in the books.