by Christian Burch
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars
Third-grader Keats Dalinger refers to his male nanny as the manny throughout the story so we don’t discover his real name until the very end. The manny takes care of Keats, his older sisters Lulu and India, and his little sister Belly (Mirabelle) and also serves as a role model for Keats. There is tension throughout the story as Lulu adds to her Manny Files all the evidence she collects that the manny is unsuitable to be left in charge because she dislikes him, but by the end he has won her over. However, their parents suspect that the manny will be part of their lives for a long time (SPOILER: he falls in love with their uncle Max) and so refuse to give in to Lulu (though they handle it respectfully).
The manny is fairly flamboyantly gay, though this is not actually one of Lulu’s complaints about him. As he says, she’s just at an age (12) where she just wants to fit in, and he makes that hard for her (partly by virtue of being a male nanny, but also by doing attention-grabbing things like dressing up in funny outfits to meet the bus). The manny comes off as stereotypically gay and, while he’s endearing, he doesn’t have a ton of depth. Keats also exhibits some stereotypically gay characteristics and behaviors like being fastidious and into fashion. That said, the story is quite fun and funny to read, as the manny’s (and other adults’) actions are relayed mostly through Keats’ narration. He does a great job of stating exactly what happened without any explanation or context, which can be quite entertaining through the eyes of an eight-year-old. Also, if you are susceptible to ear worms, be warned that this book contains quite a few 80s songs sure to get stuck in your head!
by Sarah L. Thomson
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
This manny couldn’t be more different from the one above. He’s 16 and very into girls and he even has a real name – Justin. He babysits, sure, and is great with kids, but his main motivation for taking a month-long nannying gig in the Hamptons with a rich family is to meet a beautiful, rich girl. He’s a typical teenage boy, struggling between fulfilling his immediate desires and doing what he knows is the right thing (charging an expensive new shirt to his mom’s credit card, for example). His two best friends show the competing sides of him: one is a real ladies’ man who can “get away with” treating girls poorly, and the other is a super tech nerd doing a summer internship at the Department of Defense. (FYI for parents: there is a little bit about drinking at a party he goes to, mostly that he has a beer or two but cuts it off because the girl he’s into doesn’t like when guys get drunk. In general, it’s very sweet and innocent, just a little kissing.) Justin does fall in love over the summer but not with the girl you’d expect, though more experienced readers will see the twists coming. And of course, he’s not overly suave so he manages to put his foot in his mouth. The book ends on a hopeful note but you don’t get the satisfaction of seeing his summer come quite to a happy ending. I say, give me the gay Mary Poppins any day and leave this one for the teens, but it’s a good summer beach read.