The Manny Files

The Manny Files
by Christian Burch
MG fiction. 296 pp.
Aladdin Mix. 2006.

back copy:

A man might be our nanny. A male nanny. A manny. No wonder that's what he wanted us to call him. This was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. I wanted to rush to the bathroom to pee, but I didn't want to miss Lulu's reaction to the news of the man nanny.

Even though Keats Dalinger is the only boy in his family, he sometimes feels invisible. But he's sure that under the manny's guidance he can emerge from the shadows of his larger-than-life sisters and live up to the manny's challenge—scribbled on a coconut in Keat's lunch bag—to "be interesting."

But Keat's older sister Lulu finds the manny embarrassing, not interesting, and is keeping a record of all the crazy things he does in hope of persuading their parents to fire him. Who will teach Keats how to be interesting if Lulu gets her way?

Completed May 19.

My surprise with this book was the age. I confess that I was expecting it to be an adult novel, taking after Nanny Diaries. But I was wrong. After I adjusted to that massive paradigm shift, I found that I enjoyed the novel.

Keat is just so likable. You sense his real concern about losing the first nanny he's actually liked and who actually seems to like him and try to draw more out of him. More than anything, I appreciated his absolute innocence. The main demonstration of this innocence is that unlike everyone around him, he has no concept that the manny is gay. Or, for that matter, that his uncle is gay. So he doesn't pick up on the adult romance that blossoms there until it's an actual relationship. I liked this because that's really how a kid's world is—massively egocentric and innocent. It's adults—like Dec's brother-in-law (you know, the squat latino who knocked up Dec's sister for a greencard, out of wedlock, mind you)—who freak out about the Gays and their Corruption of Everything Holy and Oh! the Damage They Wish to Inflict upon Children. Kids only recognize that there are adults in their lives who love them and want them to be all they can be.

The writing isn't stellar, and there isn't much of a plot, but overall I had a pleasant experience with the book.

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