Mr. Chickee's Funny Money
Mr. Chickee's Funny Money

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Annotation: Flint Future Detective Club members Steven Carter, his friend Russell, and Russell's huge dog Zoopy solve the mystery of a quadrillion-dollar bill with the image of James Brown on it.
Catalog Number: #203522
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Publisher: Dell Yearling
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition Date: 2007
Pages: 151 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-440-22919-7 Perma-Bound: 0-605-34343-8
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-440-22919-3 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-34343-6
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2004030863
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Curtis tries something new in this book, which begins the Flint Future Detective series. Mostly mystery with a touch of fantasy, the story introduces Steven, a bright kid, whose adventure begins after he receives a quadrillion dollar bill from Mr. Chickee, a blind neighbor that Steven helps out. The money's signature feature is a picture of soul singer James Brown. After Steven discovers that the money is legit, he finds himself pitted against Treasury Agent Foondoo, which leads to a chase in which Zoopy, a dog belonging to Russell, Steven's partner in crime, is seemingly killed. But all's well that ends well when the money is returned, rewards are given, and Zoopy reappears unharmed. There's plenty of action, and the humor is high--though much of it, unfortunately, is at the expense of Steven's father. Curtis' writing style, fast-paced and full of improbable happenings, may be too stylized for some readers, but many kids will enjoy the heady mix of conspiracies and everyday happenings. The explanation of how Brown's picture landed on the quadrillion dollar bill is a hoot.
Horn Book
Nine-year-old Steven's blind elderly neighbor gives him what looks like a quadrillion-dollar bill with Godfather of Soul James Brown's face on it, and Steven sets out to establish its authenticity. Binding the intrigue and delectable silliness are subtle threads concerning race ("Do you really think the U.S. government would put James Brown on any money?") and life in hard-luck Flint, Michigan.
Kirkus Reviews
<p>When Mr. Chickee gives fourth-grader Steven Carter a special present, he sets in motion this first in a humorous series starring the Flint Future Detectives. Steven calls in the experts: Mom and Dad. Dad helps clear up the first mystery: It's a quadrillion-dollar bill, with the face of James Brown, godfather of soul. It's funny money, of course. But Mom isn't so sure. Secretly armed with a hidden amplifier, Steven goes with his father to visit a U.S. treasury agent. He learns that his bill is legitimate, but the government wants it back. Steven calls in reinforcements, his best friend Russell Woods and Russell's oversized dog, Zoopy. The story continues with a madcap chase in which the two boys ride the dog down a busy highway and Steven ends up doing the appropriate thing with the money, surviving a fall over the Flint River dam, but nearly losing Zoopy. The zany action will appeal to middle-grade readers and the fast pace makes for an excellent read-aloud. Another winner from a master storyteller. (Fiction. 8-11)</p>
School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 3-6-A humorous and exciting tall tale about nine-year-old Steven, who loves helping his blind neighbor, Mr. Chickee, run his errands. When the elderly man tells Steven he is going on a long trip, he gives the boy a present and tells him to keep it secret. When Steven finally opens the surprise, he finds a quadrillion dollar bill. With the help of his younger friend, Russell, and Russell's drooling, giant dog, Zoopy, Steven manages to evade the smarmy and slightly inept Agent Fondoo from the U.S. Treasury Department, who is desperately trying to get the bill back. Curtis piles the laughs on in this fast-paced mystery. The interactions between Steven and his dad, who uses every opportunity to educate his son (much to Steven's irritation); the dictionary whose copyright page constantly writes insults; and the boy's miraculous spying invention called the Snoopeeze 9000 all serve to give the novel a sense of whimsy and magical realism. Characters are very interesting but the plot is the important thing here. Curtis presents both adults and children as flawed but brave. This book will surely appeal to reluctant readers as well as anyone who wants to laugh and find intrigue and just a little bit of magic.-B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Library, Sag Harbor, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Word Count: 32,834
Reading Level: 5.3
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.3 / points: 5.0 / quiz: 101363 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.4 / points:9.0 / quiz:Q37760
Lexile: 890L
Guided Reading Level: U
Fountas & Pinnell: U
Steven sat on the banks of the Flint River below the Kearsley Dam crying. Not just little splishy-splashy tears either--his tears were gooshy waterfalls coming out of his eyes. He was crying so hard that the tears weren't just running down his cheeks, they were running over his forehead into his hair and sideways into his ears!

But who could blame him? Even though he was nine and one-third years old and probably a genius he was boo-hooing like a kindergarten baby because he'd just seen the most horrible thing any kid could ever see. Well, almost.

His best friend for this week, his greatest pal ever, the only one he'd ever shared all his secrets with, was gone. Not gone for the weekend or to a new neighborhood or to a new town or even out of the country. He was gone forever!

Steven kept his eyes on the churning and boiling and splashing water at the base of the dam, but deep down inside him he knew. No one, no matter how big and strong they were, could fall over that dam and hold their breath for fifteen minutes, and that was how long it had been.

Gone. That one word kept coming into Steven's mind. It stopped that other word, that other four-letter word. He didn't want to think of both that other four-letter word that began and ended with d and his best friend in the same sentence.
For the first few minutes after he'd dragged himself out of the water Steven had stared at the spot where they had landed. He kept saying, "Come on! Come on, where are you?"

He'd always believed that if you thought about something hard enough and positively enough you could make it happen, so for ten minutes he kept imagining his friend popping to the surface of the water, gasping and gulping in huge lungfuls of precious air before finally swimming over to the riverbank, where Steven would help pull him out.

After he had imagined this over and over and over and after no head came to the surface, Steven knew, he knew he'd been very lucky in the two-hundred-and-fifty-foot fall over the dam. His friend had not.

Steven sat on the riverbank in shock. A pretty good-sized puddle that mixed Flint River water and tears was growing around him but he didn't care, he didn't even put his face in his hands, he just stuck his face out and cried.

Crashing down the bank toward him through a jungle of thrown-out refrigerators and TVs and plastic garbage bags and weeds were six men all dressed in black suits with white shirts and red neckties. One of them yelled, "Over here! The little boy's alive! He's down here!"

All six men held objects that looked like teeny-weeny satellite dishes. All six dishes were going "Beep! Beep! Beep!" and flashing green and blue lights. The man who had spotted Steven pointed his dish and it beeped faster and faster as he got nearer.
Steven didn't even care. His friend had only been gone for a few minutes and already Steven felt so bad and lonely and sad that nothing seemed important.

The man crouched beside him and said, "There, there, son, it's going to be all right."
Steven felt like he was dreaming when the man took off his black suit jacket and wrapped it around his shoulders. "I'll call an ambulance. You've got a pretty nasty bump on your head there and we don't want to take any chances."

It didn't even seem strange when the man started talking into his watch: "Come in, base, Agent One here, I've got an injury at the bottom of the dam. Subject A Three has suffered a possible concussion and appears to be disoriented, request an ambulance at"--the man looked at his little satellite dish--"at coordinates nine oh three tristar three eight seven ooga-booga three three three four. Over."

The watch answered the man, "One, is A Three in possession of the item? Does he still have it?"

Agent One pointed his mini-dish at Steven. It went "Beep! Beep! Beep!"

One answered, "I'm afraid not, base, that's a negative."

The watch said, "Oh, no, this is terrible, he must've lost it in the fall over the dam. Is A Three alert enough to be questioned?"

Agent One gently shook Steven and said, "Son? Son, are you okay?"

What kind of question was that? How could someone be okay when they knew their best friend was de . . . was gone? Steven just looked at the man.

"Now, son," Agent One said, "you've got to help us out here. Things will be a lot easier if you cooperate, all right?"

Steven nodded, not because he agreed, but because he knew that was what the man wanted him to do.

"Okay, good boy. Now, where is it? We're pretty sure you had it when you two started running across the top of the dam. Did you drop it in the water? Do you know which side it fell on? Just tell me where it is and maybe I can help you out and you won't have to go to jail for too long."

Steven had to think about this. He wished his head would stop spinning for a second so he could make the kind of decision a good detective would about what he should do next.

One thing he did know, spinning head or not, was that this man didn't really care about helping him. He was trying to scare him with that talk about jail, and it worked--Steven started wondering what bad thing could happen next.

"Look, kid, tell me where it is or things could get pretty bad for you." The man's tone changed.

"He . . . he . . . he . . ." Steven pointed at the spot where they'd landed in the water. "He must still have it. I think he swallowed it while we were falling."

One aimed his mini-dish at the spot where Steven pointed. The dish went "Ba-weep! Ba-weep! Ba-weep!"

One yelled into his watch, "Base, base! Subject B One allegedly still has the item in his possession! I'm getting a positive reading on my parabolic unit indicating the item is underwater at the foot of the dam!"

Excerpted from Mr. Chickee's Funny Money by Christopher Paul Curtis
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Mr. Chickee, the genial blind man in the neighborhood, gives 9-year-old Steven a mysterious bill with 15 zeros on it and the image of a familiar but startling face. Could it be a quadrillion dollar bill? Could it be real? Well, Agent Fondoo of the U.S. Treasury Department and his team of Secret Government Agents are determined to get that money back! But Steven and his best friends, Russell and Zoopy the giant dog, are more than a match for the Feds. After all, Steven is the president of the Flint Future Detectives Club, and the inventor of fantastic spying and detecting equipment such as the Snoopeeze 9000!

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