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Laugh Till You Cry    by Joan Lowery Nixon order for
Laugh Till You Cry
by Joan Lowery Nixon
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Cody Carter is thirteen years old, and a new student at Oliver J. Farnsworth Middle School in Houston, Texas. He misses his home, school, and friends in California. Dad passed away about four years ago. Cody and his Mom went to Texas to spend a summer with his grandmother. The visit is extended because grandma is ill with a heart ailment and needs care. Grandma was once an English teacher at the Middle School. Cousin Hayden Norton is the same age and grade as Cody, and lives next-door to grandma. Unfortunately, Hayden and his buddies harass Cody. And there is something suspicious about the clubhouse in Hayden's back yard.

On one particular day, Cody is running away from his cousin and buddies when he spots a police car, and decides to ask for help. Officer Jake Ramsey is not only a cop, but he also moonlights playing saxophone in a combo at a club on Richmond, and hopes to perform as a stand-up comedian on open-mike night. Cody is very good at making up jokes, and Jake offers to pay him for any material he can offer. The two become friends, and Jake watches over Cody. Then the school receives anonymous phone calls, creating bomb scares. Suspicion falls on Cody, who happens to be outside eating lunch by himself (rather than in the cafeteria) when a call comes into the school. Cody's Mom and Jake have confidence in his innocence. Cody does a little investigating on his own. He finds clues that point to a student named Bobby, and also to cousin Hayden.

Joan Lowery Nixon is remembered for more than 130 mysteries for young adults, including Who Are You?, Shadowmaker, and The Weekend Was Murder. She also wrote award-winning historical series. In Laugh Till You Cry, Nixon offers a short, light-hearted, witty read with a punch. It incorporates a conundrum of a mystery, as well as an ingenious format for introducing readers to Shakespeare's Hamlet. The latter has helped me to understand the play, while enjoying a pleasant read.

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