The man behind Charlie Joe Jackson


Amanda Lira

On Thursday, Jan. 31 the residents of Downey attend an author study with Tommy Greenwald to discuss his book series in the Cormack Room at the Downey City Library. Greenwald is inspired by his surroundings and real life situations.

Gabriela Sanchez, Arts and Entertainment Editor

The Downey City Library held an event on Jan. 31 where Tommy Greenwald, a children’s author, introduced his Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading book series. The writer shared his insight on the development of his books, characters, and inspirations that led to the success of his best seller that is full of funny tips and adventures revolving around a young boy named Charlie Joe Jackson—“the most reluctant reader in the world.”

Greenwald’s story idea first crept into his mind about three years ago. It was an original thought, different from other children’s books. The story line follows a young boy who absolutely hates reading and shares his tips on how to avoid the time consuming activity at all costs. With time and a laptop in hand, Greenwald stepped into the mind of a middle school youngster who hates reading and created Charlie Joe Jackson.

The book series creator carefully pieced together Charlie Joe by making him a relatable character as well as a wholesome kid. The middle school student, although going to extremes to never finish a book from cover to cover, is not a rebel or a troublemaker, but simply a boy who has sworn off books as his one and only enemy. Greenwald constructed his character to appeal to his targeted audience, young ones who typically do not enjoy reading.

Nathan Sanchez, an elementary student, is a fan of Greenwald’s work, enjoying Charlie’s character and all the adventures and tips he shares.

“I really liked the first book,” Sanchez said. “It made me laugh a lot.”

Although Charlie Joe Jackson was Greenwald’s original creation, the writer took some inspiration from his personal life to build the personality of his main character. The muse behind Charlie Joe Jackson are his three teenage boys, Charlie, Joe, and Jack. The author explained the struggles he faced when trying to encourage his boys to read.

“My kids hated reading,” Greenwald said. “It’s not a fault, they just didn’t like it. I bribed them, pleaded, and yelled. It was truly a power struggle.”

Despite their father’s love for literature, the boys refused to read and insisted that they would rather stare at blank walls than crack open a book and flip through the pages of any classic novel.

“It was because my kids hated reading that I started writing this,” Greenwald said.

With his three boys in mind, Greenwald crafted a book for all children, even those who hated the idea of reading. Although the book is titled as a guide to avoid reading, his focus was to engage his audience and ironically trick them into enjoying Charlie Joe Jackson and his world.

“I wanted to creep a storyline on them,” Greenwald said. “First I start with short chapters, tips on how not to read, but then the chapters get a little bit longer. I incorporate a plot, and then they’re reading.”

An audience member of the author study, Mariella Suarez, shared her thoughts on Greenwald’s strategy on how to encourage younger children to read.

“I think it’s awesome how he was able to capture the kid’s attention and really let them enjoy the story,” Suarez said. “He’s really talented.”

Greenwald admits that his books may not make children realize a newfound love for reading, but if his stories were able to make it a bit more bearable and allowed them to explore a different world through Charlie Joe Jackson’s eyes, he’s done his job.