Farley Calford’s The Complete Disaster: Rhonda’s Birthday Party is a delightfully funny novel set in Milwaukee circa 1949. Although it’s Rhonda’s birthday party, it becomes nine-year-old Nevin’s problem right from the start. Nevin receives an invitation to a birthday celebration from a neighborhood girl named Rhonda. He was invited so Rhonda would receive more presents. He doesn’t want to go! Rhonda is the perfect brat and Nevin’s archenemy. His mother insists he must attend, and sends him off to purchase a gift for 50 cents. After almost being arrested and buying a gift that doesn’t have his mother’s approval, the day of the party arrives. His pathway to the party takes him past the “Porch” where Old One Eye is sitting with the big boys waiting to tease Nevin and make him cry. Finally reaching the party, Nevin feels very uncomfortable surrounded by the girl’s only group of guests. The guests are Rhonda’s friends and they take her side against Nevin. The party game is “fixed” by Rhonda for a Rhonda win. The opening of gifts is a nightmare of discomfort for Nevin when Rhonda breaks his gift trying to open it. Trying to make her birthday wishes come true causes Rhonda to throw tantrums, and the cake and ice cream portion of the party results in pandemonium with an ending that’s a “Complete Disaster.” The author’s authentic characters and exciting narrative are based on his childhood experiences growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Complete Disaster is a fast-paced page-turner that young readers and their parents won’t be able to put down.
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