Keats is the only boy among four children, left alone when the various nannies shared fun times with his sisters.
That all changes when his mom introduces their new nanny - the manny! The manny shows Keats how to be yourself, deal with bullies and have fun.
Not everyone is fond of the manny, however. Keats' oldest sister, Lulu, is outraged by the manny's bizarre activities and embarrassing public displays. Convinced that he will scar her for life, she compiles The Manny Files, to exploit the manny's ways to her parents and get him fired.
With this looming threat, Keats must stand up to Lulu and find a way to save the manny.
The Manny Files is a ride of laughter and sentiment. The characters are some of the strongest and most interesting I have come across.
Keats is a wonderful main character and narrator. He is a little low on self-esteem in the beginning and feels pushed aside but he seizes the opportunity to be who he wants to be and have fun. I love how he idolizes the manny.
One of the things I liked most about the novel being narrated from Keats' perspective was that his young age (nine going on ten) meant that he perceived things in different ways and didn't always understand what was going on, which added a great deal of humour.
The manny said that if their "ensembles" matched, it would be more convenient if Lulu decided to pull him onstage for a tap-dancing, piano-playing encore. Dad said that the manny had a brilliant sense of humor. Lulu said he was "de-minted," but I thought his breath smelled fine.
Keats' sisters are all wonderful in their own ways. His second oldest sister, India, is a free spirit with wisdom and flair. His three year old sister, Belly, is a reminder of that time when you were little and could be free - and possibly nude - without caring who thought or said what about you.
Lulu is that early-teen girl who hasn't quite grasped what angst is but gives it her best whirl. Her quips about the manny could be very clever and I was able to relate to her over-dramatic nature.
The adults in Keats' life are not shadows in the background. Despite the fact that they have a nanny, both work and are wealthy, his parents have a very active role in their children's lives. They are supportive and well-grounded to the point where their humour still thrives at the surface.
Keats' Uncle Max has a funny bone to match the manny's, although his jokes often get Keats into trouble at school. The relationship between Keats and his Grandma is touching but not without pizazz.
Then, of course, there is the manny. His character was the magnet that drew me to this book. There was never a dull moment with the manny. He is fantastical, imaginative and very human. The manny is the kind of mentor that Keats needs and the reader should want.
The Manny Files is targeted at readers ages 8-12. More like ages 8-awesome if you ask me. I was only part-way through this book when I started from the beginning and read the whole thing aloud to my mum who also enjoyed it.
This book left me feeling imaginative and in full power to be free and be myself...though perhaps not strip in public, like Belly. That could get me arrested.
The day I finished reading The Manny Files, I went out and bought the sequel, 'Hit the Road, Manny,' which I hadn't known existed when I first started reading The Manny Files. It was just as enjoyable as the first installment. Here's hoping that Christian Burch has more on the way!
The Manny Files is a delightful read that I would recommend to anyone who wants to share in Keats' adventures and the manny's mantra: Be Interesting.