A few months ago, I got a present from my boss and the kids—a young readers’ novel called The Manny Files, by Christian Burch. I liked that book a lot because it was all about how the manny actually deals with the kids. He is an unbelievable mensch, always trying to find ways to amuse them. He puts notes in their lunch boxes. He helps the boy deal with the class bully and advises the girl on her boy problems. He deals with the kids’ hurt feelings, with feelings of humiliation, self-consciousness, even about death. Kids ask lots of questions, and they often surprise you. Being able to answer an incredibly serious, grown-up question so that even a child can understand is a skill in itself. This manny, unlike Peter, never avoids sensitive topics, and always pays attention and shows the kids respect. Another aspect I really enjoyed about this book is that the young boy is the narrator, which gives the whole thing an engaging sense of curious naïveté.
As it happens, The Manny Files also has a romantic element. Over the course of the book, we deduce that the manny is having a relationship with the kids’ uncle. The narrator doesn’t understand it himself, but the evidence is clear. Compared with the cheesy, inevitable consummation in The Manny, this children’s book explores adult relationships in a mature and nuanced fashion.
Of course, The Manny isn’t really a book. It’s a chick flick begging to be made. Here’s the pitch: “Sex and the City meets Charles in Charge.” Few guys are going to read The Manny, or let’s be honest, probably this article about it, either. But men, consider yourself warned: You’re going to get dragged to the movie.