Illustrated by John Manders


“McMahon delivers a side-splitting effort with this. The characters are hilarious, and the kids who heard this book or read it on their own were laughing as loudly as I was. McMahon's writing style is unique in children's books…It's been two weeks since finishing this book, and I still find myself smiling and laughing about this book.  Excellent!” ~N. Blimes, elementary school teacher


“Kids won’t turn to the Freaky Joe Club for its mysteries: it’s the detours and diversions from those very mysteries (bickering, misunderstandings, slapstickery) that are the series’s calling card and an amusing source of apoplexy for narrator Conor. The books’ texts, he makes plain, are actually his written accounts of each case, and his understated narration (“Jeremiah yells. It’s not a nice word”) is endlessly undercut by the general bedlam going on around him.

Readers will appreciate Conor’s voice and the who’s-on-first?-style conversations among the agents, but that’s not why I’d recommend the Freaky Joe books. Utterly unexpected in a series of quickly sketched characters is Conor’s mother, an abstract painter.. Conor’s mom is something of a rarity in contemporary children’s novels, I think: a mother who is not just embarrassing but also funny, happy, and capable (she tackles the bad guy in Swimming Gorilla and studies The Chinese Martial Arts Guide to Roller Hockey to enhance her hockey-coaching skills). Conor knows he has it good — ”I have the idea that I should tell my mother she is a pretty good mother” — and their mutual respect is improbably touching given the daffy scenarios that expose it.

It’s a truism that a boy who gets along with his mother will have good relationships with the other females in his life, and the preadolescent Conor’s attitude toward girls reflects this. McMahon gamely skewers the cutesy products of girl culture with references to Kissy Kitty and Magical Baby Katie bicycles and Bitty Bunny sticker books, but there is no categorical dismissal of “the pink crowd,” as Conor puts it. He sees girls as he sees boys: either as good hockey players or as idiots.”  ~The Horn Book