Book Review: The Snitch, Houdini and Me

9870994The Snitch, Houdini and Me: Humorous Tales of Death-Defying Childhood Misadventure (2010) by Johnny Virgil (JV Enterprises, 2010)

Genre: memoir, humor

I received a free digital copy of this book from the author through BookBloggers in return for an honest review. If you would like to know more about Johnny Virgil, check out his blog, 15  Minute Lunch.

Amazon describes Virgil’s memoir…

“Go Out and Play and Don’t Come Home until it’s Dark.”

Growing up in the 70’s wasn’t easy. No internet or smartphones, video games or HDTV — nothing but time to kill and the endless potential of a summer day. Only parental threats and a newly-developed sense of right and wrong could steer Johnny Virgil and his two younger brothers away from trouble…or directly into it.
 
Join Johnny on this hilarious and irreverent romp through his childhood as he recounts the stories that made him what he is today – an unimportant cog in a vast, corporate financial services machine. But he wasn’t always this way, and this book is proof.
Booby traps, severed deer legs, runaway bulldozers, young love and fresh cow pies — all this and more, brought to life by Johnny’s sometimes twisted, sometimes touching but always hilarious tales of suburban childhood. If you have kids of your own, these are the stories you don’t want them to read.  If you like to laugh even when it’s wrong and long to return to a more innocent yet treacherous time, this book will leave you wishing Johnny’s childhood had never ended.

When I signed up to review this book, I knew it was right up my ally. I grew up with three younger brothers, two older male cousins, two additional male kids of close family friends and tons of boys at my annual summer camp, which was a big prankfest. Talk about shenanigans! I was prepared for this book…or so I thought. I was amused at the stories Virgil shared, and felt that I was an observer of those events. I highly recommend this book!

If you are a mother, especially of boys or a daughter who was a tomboy, read this book. If you’re a boy (over the age of 21 so as not to get any “bright” ideas), read this book.

If you spent your childhood days growing up pre-2000, read this book. It will bring memories flooding back…and maybe provide some pointers or ideas you never dreamed of fulfilling to scare the beejezus out of that big kid bully.

If you ever feared being “in deep shit,” read this book. Warning: the farther in you read, the more adult the language becomes.

This book is hilarious throughout, with never-ending shenanigans and covert missions, usually involving one of Johnny’s two younger brothers, The Snitch or Houdini, their neighbor Markie or best friend The Slug. Virgil shares some stories that could have been disastrously dangerous for his little band of boys. He is very keen to point out he doesn’t know how he survived childhood without killing himself, or someone else, at every opportunity. And he’s right: after reading some of the boys’ grand schemes, you will be surprised to know they usually escaped supreme and disastrous trouble usually unscathed, with only a few cuts.

Johnny and his gang didn’t have the best of everything from back in the day. They didn’t get what they wanted. They essentially had hand-me-down bikes that came home as a box of bike parts. Yeah. The kid down the street had a mouth-watering go-kart…so Johnny and the boys created their own version, and they were happy with it.

Throughout this collection of stories, readers can watch Johnny grow up from the leader of two little brothers through that awkward teenage stage, learning about girls and dating, cars, and eventually a few excursions with the bottle. Included in the beginning chapters are drawings Johnny did as a child in grade school, and one or two photos.

Virgil shares a time when being a kid was OK, but when you cross the line there are consequences from your parents. Neighborhood kids with tag-along siblings, generally left to their own devices during summertime. Friendly-fire neighborhood gangs battling over turf, sometimes just on principle. The fear of getting in trouble. It’s something that’s rarely seen today, back when a pinky swear meant something.

-CA

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