Attack of the Mutant Underwear

Hear ye! Hear ye! Listen up everybody! Cody Lee Carson is about to become a changed man.

At the start of fifth grade, Cody begins a New Me journal to record his new life in a new town and new school. No one there will ever suspect him of being the old-Cody doofus, bozo-brained mess-up who sprawled onstage with his underwear for all to see. This year he's starting over.

In the hilarious day-to-day account starring an ace-brilliant fifth-grade hero, readers will soon find themselves learning how to manage anything life throws their way, from Valentine's Day mix-ups, to election day jitters, to talent show disasters, to -- who knows? an attack of the mutant underwear!!!

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Reviews

"Lively and believable . . . great appeal for middle graders." - School Library Journal

"Birdseye has a feel for the high-stakes life of the nearly teen set . . . kids will find Cody an easy one to identify with." - The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Uses the diary format to good advantage, showing in funny, first-person observations that boys can have the same emotional ups and downs that girls do." - Booklist

"Thought-provoking choices . . . comically calamitous episodes and some poignant moments." - Publishers Weekly

"Kids will relate to Cody's humorous attempts at self-improvement." - The Horn Book

"Highly recommended." - Children's Bookwatch

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Applause

State children's choice award nominations in Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana.

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Availability

Through your local bookseller, or on-line at:

Hardcover: Holiday House, NY - ISBN 0-8234-1689-5

Recorded Books: ISBN 1-4025-7010-4

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THE STORY BEHIND - ATTACK OF THE MUTANT UNDERWEAR:

Having written a book about a kid like me who didn't want to move to a new town but had to anyway (Tarantula Shoes), I was reminded that there was also a time in my life (ninth grade or so, I think) when I was delighted to relocate. There were some changes I wanted to make in myself, and I figured it would be a whole lot easier if I went someplace where no one knew me. People wouldn't have any expectations that way, or knowledge of my past. It'd be like starting fresh with a clean slate.

Right?

Well, not exactly. Turned out that the old me made the trip to the new town, too. Change, especially fundamental change in who I was as a person, didn't come easy. It was a real challenge.

Aha! I thought, fertile ground! Nothing like a character in a challenging situation to get a story started. I began brainstorming, thinking about character development, going through the ideas I keep stashed in my desk drawer, jotting down scenes on 3x5 cards, toying with possibilities. Until Cody Lee Carson was born, and off I went!

Which makes the whole thing sound simple and straightforward. It wasn't. Many dead ends, as usual. Back up, try again. And again. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Two years of work, altogether. But in the end it was worth it.

At least for me as a writer. Hopefully, you'll think so, too. Read on to get a taste of the final result . . .

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Chapter One

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! Listen Up, Everybody!

I, Cody Lee Carson, have an announcement to make. As of this exact moment (drumroll, please), I have resolved to become (louder drumroll), a changed man!

That’s right. No more embarrassing mistakes, like when I got my head stuck in the school bus window.

No more bozo-brained mess-ups, like the time I dove out of the maple tree with a bungee cord hooked to my belt.

No more trips to the principal’s office, or bad grades, or missed recesses, or being grounded for stuff I really didn’t mean to do.

That was the old Cody Lee Carson. Today another Cody Lee Carson has magically appeared -- tah-dah! -- the very cool New Me! (Don’t clap, just throw money.)

And this is my New Me Journal, page one, numero uno. In which I will write the story of my New Life here in my New, Nobody-Knows-About-the-Old-Cody town of Benton, Oregon. That way, after I take full advantage of this second chance, and everybody is wondering how I turned into such an incredible, amazing superstar and ace-brilliant-type-author-guy, they can just read this and they’ll know the whole story.

So remember, whoever you are who found this ordinary-looking journal (probably in a trunk in some dusty attic), you’re holding a priceless piece of history in your hands. DON’T DROP IT!

But on with my New Life. Where was I? Oh yeah, I was about to explain how moving to a place where nobody knows you can actually be the best, especially when -- oops, gotta go. Mom is calling. But don’t worry, I’m not in trouble. I didn’t do anything stupid or wrong. That was the Old Me, remember? Mom is just ready to go shopping, that’s all. Got to get my New Clothes so I can start fifth grade at my New School looking like -- you guessed it -- the New Me.

Don’t change that channel while I’m gone, though, Cody Lee Carson fans. Stay right here, OK? Good! Now I’ve REALLY got to hightail it. Mom is beeping the horn.

Later!

Still Monday, September 4, Labor Day

What do you get if you spell Mom backward?

You get the same thing you started with, that’s what. M-O-M turned around is still M-O-M. Just like my M-O-M can still be a pain when she wants to be.

You’d think that after I told her all about the New Me she’d treat her one-and-only son with the all the honor and respect I clearly deserve.

You’d think.

It all started in the boy’s section at Mattingly’s Department Store. We were almost finished shopping for my school clothes. Things had gone pretty well, until Mom decided she did not want to buy me a pair of Imadude jeans.

“Too expensive,” she said. “All that money for a fancy label.” She had that look on her face. (You know, like she’s totally made up her mind and there is nothing I can do about it, no way, no how.) It seemed hopeless.

Until my little five-year-old sister, Molly (I call her Molly the creature, or MC, for short), started complaining that she wanted to exchange her new white socks for black ones because they’d never get dirty. “Black socks!” she sang loud enough for everyone in Mattingly’s to hear, “they never get dirty, the longer you wear them the stiffer they get. Sometimes I think of the laundry, but something inside me says, ‘Not yet, not yet!’”

Normally, Mom just ignores Molly when she acts like a creature. But today, for some reason, she couldn’t. And the next thing I knew MC was picking out a bunch of black socks.

Which gave me -- aha! -- an opening. I pointed out to Mom that in order to be fair I should now be able to pick whatever kind of pants I wanted. Mom rolled her eyes, but said, “OK.” I grinned and went straight for the Imadudes to try them on.

But Mom wasn’t done with me yet. I was admiring my new jeans in front of the dressing room mirror when she piped up from outside the door. “Do they fit all right?”

I looked myself over. “They fit great.” They made me look like a New Me man, a manly New Me man who knows what he wants out of life -- fame and fortune, for starters -- and how to get it. I struck a manly New Me man pose and flexed my manly New Me man muscles.

“But do they have room for you to grow?” Mom asked

“Yep,” I said. “They’re cool.”

“Around the waist?”

I let out a big sigh, and wondered: Just what is it with moms? Are they born this way, or does their brain fall apart when they hit middle-age? “The jeans are fine,” I mumbled, “just fine. Let’s get them.” And I started to take my new Imadudes off so we could buy them.

“How about length?”

“Yes, Mom.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes, Mom. I already told you.”

“Let me see.”

Jeans down to my knees, I jumped. “No, Mom, I’m not --”

But she had already opened the dressing room door. Past which, at that exact moment, a girl was leading a little boy toward another dressing room.

Yes, a girl, as in female-type person.

“Mom!” I screeched. But it was too late.

The girl had seen me.

Seen me in my underwear.

And -- poof! -- it was like I was the Old Me again, back in Portland during our fourth grade Oregon history play, Westward Ho! Halfway through my entrance my pioneer suspenders decided they’d had enough of holding up my pioneer pants. Which dropped south and got tangled around my legs. The next thing I knew I was flying through the air like Superman. I skidded to a stop right there in front of everybody -- kids, teachers, parents -- my Winnie-the-Pooh underwear shining in the spotlights.

I got teased for weeks. “Hey, here comes Pooh Bear Butt!” kids would say. “Haw! Haw!” Or: “Look, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s Superpooh! Haw! Haw!”

I threw every pair of little kid underwear I owned in the garbage the day we moved from Portland. And I was sure I’d gotten rid of my Old Me bad-luck past along with them.

Until this afternoon, that is. The girl at Mattingly's didn’t laugh at me, or say a word. In fact, she turned her head and acted like she hadn’t seen a thing. Still, I’ve got an Old Me yucky feeling way down deep in the pit of my stomach that just won’t go away.