Oggie Cooder has a talent -- he can charve better than anyone else in Truman Elementary School. (Charving, for the uninitiated, is the carving of a piece of cheese with one's teeth.) Oggie doesn't think this is anything special -- but his whole school will soon be disagreeing with him. Because after he inadvertantly charves during a nationwide hunt for unusual talents, his charving puts him on the path to fame and forture. Suddenly, he's the star of the school . . . but he's not sure that he wants to shine that way.
This is Sarah Weeks at her best -- funny, clever, and kid-friendly.
Oggie Cooder has a talent every bit as unique as his name. He charves cheese, preferably sliced not-quite room-temperature cheese. For the uninitiated, charving is a cross between chewing and carving, or rather, it is carving by chewinga talent Oggie's friend Amy Schneider discovers. The two were sitting at lunch when she noticed he had accidentally nibbled a piece of cheese into a perfect replica of Florida, and Oggie grew his repertoire from that humble beginning. When a kid's unusual talent show comes to town looking for fresh stars to put on television, Oggie's classmate Donnica Perfecto convinces him to teach her how to charve. Fortunately for Oggie, she is not very good at charving but is very secretive, so on the day of her audition, even Donnica's mother needs Oggie's help finding the aspiring star. They find her at the park, mangling her charving audition, and once the producers see Oggie trying to give her pointers, they offer him the slot on the show instead. As word spreads of Oggie's forthcoming television appearance, he finds himself more accepted, but Donnica refuses to be upstaged and instead finagles herself into position as Oggie's manager. Her re-invention of Oggie goes too far, even by his docile standards, and Oggie takes a stand. Oggie's conflict between fitting in and finding himself is very relatable, and this wonderfully offbeat main character is sure to appeal to many kids. Even bossy Donnica and awkward Amy are enjoyable, and it is also refreshing to read a story with such a wholesome home life for the main character. The book would fit well with a unit about outsiders or the American Dream and lends itself well to an exploration or discussion of otherpeople's unusual talents. Reviewer: Jennifer Wood