Author: Tyler Whitesides
Published: August 2011
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Hardcover; 312 pages
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
FTC FYI: We each received ARCs from the author that did not affect our reviews.
As soon as I received the Janitors ARC, I knew I wanted to read it aloud to my 10-year-old daughter the first time through. I wanted to experience the events in the book for the first time along with her to get the perspective of the book’s intended audience. We read Janitors in just a few days, with many instances of “Mom, are you busy? When can we read more of Janitors?”
This daughter is my avid reader. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s read every Goosebumps book in the school library and three of our local libraries. She devoured all of the 39 Clues books and eagerly awaits the new series. She is currently reading Fablehaven 3 and loving it. She reads several books a week from her classroom library during silent reading. During the last school year she started a book club with two of her friends. I would guess she’s one of the more well-read 10-year-olds in her school.
Several times my daughter asked, “So, this is really the author’s first book?” When I confirmed again that it was, she would say the story was so good, it was hard to believe that it was a first book. Considering how many books she’s read, I would consider that high praise.
While older readers might find certain aspects of Janitors too silly, the humor and adventure is just right for 8-12 year olds. Taking place mostly in the elementary school makes the story highly relatable to this age group. Spencer and Daisy are enjoyable characters. Dez is highly annoying, as bullies often are, but also provides comic relief. The supporting characters are believable, with depth and personality.
One thing I love to find in middle grade novels is accountability and consequence. While it’s great to suspend belief to a degree, kids in this age group are learning a lot about consequences to their actions and they notice if the consequences are missing. Almost immediately after we finished the book, my daughter mentioned that Spencer never apologized to his brother, Max, like Daisy told him to earlier in the book. I had completely forgotten about it.
Spencer and Daisy have to face the consequences of their actions throughout the book. I love how the themes of honesty and trust are woven throughout the story. In fact, honesty and trust are integral to the success of Spencer and Daisy’s efforts.
I have included my daughter’s review of Janitors below:
For an author’s first book, it is a really good book. The book is full of adventures. It was really funny. Dez is funny because he is kind of dumb. Daisy is funny because she believes everything everyone says. I like Spencer because he is very clean and hates germs. Alice, Spencer’s mom, is an interesting character because she always likes to do things herself and does a lot at once.
My favorite character is Spencer because he does a lot of weird and funny things. I think the creatures are really gross. My favorite glopified tool is the broom. I like it because you can float in the air. I liked the beginning of the book. It was very funny and entertaining. I would read Janitors again.
I’ve heard it said that we don’t remember facts as much as feelings. While the details of Spencer and Daisy’s adventures will fade with time, I’ll always remember how I felt every time my daughter gasped and giggled as we read. I give Janitors 4 stars out of 5 because my daughter and I had such a good time reading it together. Thanks for the fun read, Tyler. Best wishes to you and the Janitors series.
Janitors is the debut novel by Tyler Whitesides. This book is a perfect read for Middle-Grade readers.
Spencer Zumbro, an awkward twelve year old, is having a hard time adjusting to life at Welcher Elementary. Spencer becomes the target of the classroom bully, Dez. With his only friend, Daisy (Gullible) Gates, they find themselves caught up in a mystery residing at Welcher Elementary.
Spencer finds out that the janitors at the school are the ones hiding the mystery. Soon Spencer and Daisy are dragged in to the excitement by the BEM (The Bureau of Educational Maintenance). They learn why so many of the students are distracted and falling asleep in class. There is a magical force working against the students and Spencer and Daisy fight to stop this from happening.
There are so many things that kids are going to love about Janitors. There is plenty of action and many funny moments, including what happens at the school-wide, PTA-sponsored Ice Cream Social. Of course, don’t forget about the magical elements that are found in this story. There is a great surprise at the end of the book for main character Spencer! This leads perfectly into the second book. I can’t wait to have my nine-year-old son read this book. I know that he is going to love it!
Janitors is the very clever and entertaining story of Spencer and Daisy, and how they get mixed up in the world of janitors. Spencer is new in town and has been having trouble focusing in classes. He moved into his aunt’s house while she is out of town with his messy siblings and flighty mom. His room is his sanctuary, it’s the cleanest room in the whole house. Spencer likes things in order. While Spencer has trouble with the class bully, Dez, he’s especially mean to Daisy “Gullible” Gates. She is sweet girl, but too trusting. Spencer and Daisy become fast friends when they are put into a situation that calls for action.
After using a “special soap” in the bathroom, (it not only took away marker, but burned his face) Spencer starts seeing weird looking creatures. He wants to do something about it, but gets a “back-off” vibe from the school janitor. He stays after school to crash a visit from the BEM (Bureau of Educational Maintenance), and that leads him to make decisions he may not be ready for.
I really liked this book. What I liked most were the lessons learned by the characters. Some examples: telling the whole truth (even it’s about monsters), stand up for what you believe, stand up for yourself, and if something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t. I also enjoyed the very inventive ways of using common household items as powerful weapons.
One of my favorite quotes about lessons was, “I knew she would trust you,” Daisy said. “It makes a difference when tell the whole truth. No one can trust a chameleon.” (Janitors, page 219)
4 out of 5 stars. Very fun. I enjoyed the twists that the story took, and mostly the way Spencer and Daisy grew. Daisy is a great character, too. I love how she is always on Spencer to do the right thing.
Visit Tyler Whiteside’s website to learn more about the Janitors series.