Book 1

Mystery, mice, and money at the end of fifth grade!

from my book

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Cheesie Mack is Not a Genius or Anything

Book 1 in the Cheesie Mack Series

Here are all the links I promised I would put on my website:

  1. Tell me if you liked this book… or if you didn’t… or whatever.
  2. Unusual grandparent nicknames.
  3. Countries with money that doesn’t break into hundredths.
  4. Guess what it will cost to mail a letter fifty years from now.
  5. Images of cool stamps and your made-up captions to go with them.
  6. Anything about frog and toad leg lengths.
  7. Excellent rodent jokes to add to my collection.
  8. Have you seen a vampire or, even better, been bitten by one?
  9. The answer to my puzzle: eighty-three cents in four U.S. coins.
  10. Cool words that sound like what they mean.
  11. Which three words is “skivolvunged” a combo of?
  12. Vote for your favorite food.
  13. How to toss things over your head backward with your toes.
  14. Other names for sow bugs… and my science report.
  15. What was the evidence in Goon’s pocket?
  16. Glenn Philips’ “a half of a time” explanation.
  17. Determining if Glenora Jean Prott was a Ms. or a Mrs.
  18. Cheesie’s and Georgie’s junk food presentation.
  19. Six U.S. pennies minted in 1909.
  20. The Harder/Bigger Word Game (THABIWOGA). [It doesn’t work. I’m a dud!]
  21. The title of my next book.
  22. Do you know why Eureka was dented into the paper in the envelope?
  23. All about my last birthday party… and tell me about yours.
  24. Where to say hi. Or leave a comment. (I hope you do!)

Cheesie Mack is Not a Genius or Anything

Book 1 in the Cheesie Mack Series

The Original Cover

Cheesie Mack is Not a Genius or AnythingThe original cover of this book—and Book 2—(both illustrated by Adam McCauley) have been replaced by new ones (illustrated by Douglas Holgate) because the people who publish my books thought my covers would look better with much bigger pictures of me. (Don’t start saying I’m conceited. It wasn’t my idea.)

There are lots of characters in my books, and most of them were pictured on the original covers. If you don’t know who everyone is, click here for a rundown.

Read more→

Part of my book you can read now!

Excerpted from: Cheesie Mack is Not a Genius or Anything

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My Best Friend Screams

The phone call was from Georgie Sinkoff, my best friend.

“GET OVER HERE RIGHT NOW!” he screamed into my ear before I could finish saying hello. And then he hung up on me.

I ran outside, yelled to Mom where I was going, and sprinted into the gully behind my house, which is in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where I have lived my whole life.

If you don’t know where Massachusetts is, look in the upper right-hand corner of the United States.

I left Alaska out because it’s too big.

Mass (sometimes we call it that) is a small state.

Map of the US with a star on Massachusets

Only six states are smaller. Even Hawaii is bigger, but it’s kind of cheating because lots of Hawaii is ocean. I have a U.S. map on my bedroom wall, and because I look at it every night before I turn out my light, I have almost memorized it.

Gloucester (people here say GLAH-stah… weird, huh?) is the oldest fishing port in America. It was founded in 1623, only three years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, which is also in Massachusetts somewhere. I have never seen Plymouth Rock, but rocks last almost forever, so I guess it’s still there.

Georgie and I live less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean, in a neighborhood of big, old houses. Not old like Pilgrims, but Granpa says our house is older than he is, and I know he is way more than seventy. (He does not celebrate his birthday, and I don’t even know when it is. He won’t tell.)

Our houses are three blocks apart if you use the streets, but Georgie and I only go that way if we’re on our bikes. There’s a scrawny little stream in a scrawny little gully that separates our backyards, and it is so narrow that last year Georgie launched a balloon filled with chocolate pudding all the way from his bedroom window over the trees and the gully into my backyard, where my sister was playing with her friends.

I told you he has terrific ideas!

Of course I was in Georgie’s bedroom at the time, but on purpose here’s what I did not do:

  1. I did not fill the balloon with pudding.
  2. I did not touch Georgie’s huge slingshot.
  3. I did not help pull back the rubber part.

I did not do any of these things so that if Mom or someone asked, I would not have to lie. I did help aim it, kind of. When the pudding bomb landed and splashed chocolate on you-know-who, the girls screamed like the universe was exploding—and even though we got yelled at, it was cool.

Georgie launching a balloon filled with chocolate pudding all the way from his bedroom window over the trees and the gully into my backyard, onto my sister's head.

I trotted through the gully on the path that Georgie and I made, then up the other side and through the won’t-close-gate into his backyard. Once inside his back door—I never have to knock—I yelled for him. He yelled back from the basement.

I walked down the stairs. They creaked and squeaked like in horror movies. (I’m not trying to scare you—it’s just one of the details I remember.)

His house, like mine, is really old. The basement and stairs are made out of wood, and the floor is mostly dirt except for the concrete part where Mr. Sinkoff keeps his tools.

I could see a shadow moving on the basement floor, so I knew Georgie was directly beneath me, under the stairs. When I reached the bottom, Georgie stepped out and grabbed me, talking real fast.

“I found something big! Really big!”

There were cobwebs in his hair. He had one hand behind his back.

I have known Georgie my whole life. We have always been best friends… except for the time in third grade when he called me Dumbo Ears. (This is really the last time I am going to mention my ears!)

GeorgieGeorgie has reddish-brown hair, greenish-brown eyes, braces, and really cool glasses with bright red rims. He is already eleven and is almost twice my size. He is good at games where being big is an advantage, like basketball and football. My best sports are soccer and baseball because I am wicked fast and very excellent at catching flies.

I have brown hair, brown eyes, and a whitish scar on my thumb where a fishhook stabbed me when I was on a lake with my dad. I was eight and fooling around. Don’t ask.Cheesie

Georgie and I go to the same school, have always had the same teacher, and in the summer, always go to camp in Maine.

“I was down here looking for black widow spiders,” Georgie continued. “I figured if I caught one in a jar, we could use it to scare your sister. But this”—

Georgie brought his arm around and held up a yellowed envelope with one corner ripped off—”was completely hidden between those two boards.” He pointed under the stairs, but I took my eyes off the envelope for only a second. “It’s addressed to my house, but the name is”—he squinted at the envelope—”G. J. Prott.”

“Probably there was somebody named G. J. Prott who lived here before you guys,” I said. Georgie nodded. “Look what was in the envelope!”

He held out a piece of paper folded up small, then opened it. Inside were a silvery metal heart on a silvery metal chain and one penny.

“A penny? Not exactly treasure, Georgie.”

“Yeah, but this necklace is probably real silver. And what if there’s more hidden stuff? Like gold and diamonds.”

I picked up the necklace and held it high between us. The lightbulb on the basement rafters was not very bright, but the heart sparkled as it spun slowly.

“I bet a hypnotist could use this to hypnotize people,” I said.

Georgie didn’t say anything. Maybe I’d sort of hypnotized him.

I placed the heart necklace back on the paper in Georgie’s hand and examined the coin. The back looked a lot different from any other penny I’d ever seen, but the front had the same face on it: Abraham Lincoln, our sixteenth president.

(Glenn Philips, the smartest kid in my class, can name all the presidents and all the vice presidents. In order!)

I looked at the date on the coin. “This penny was made in 1909.”A really old penny! (From 1909)

That snapped Georgie out of his trance. He grabbed the penny and peered at it closely. “That means it’s over a hundred years old.”

One of us said, “Whoa.”

I don’t remember who.

End of Book One ExcerptOrder Your Copy
Read from Book Two: Cheesie Mack Is Cool In A Duel
Read from Book Three: Cheesie Mack Is Running Like Crazy!
Read from Book Four: Cheesie Mack Is Not Exactly Famous
Read from Book Five: Cheesie Mack Is Sort Of Freaked Out

end of excerpt

Cheesie Mack is Not a Genius or Anything

is available in the following formats:

Random House

May 22, 2011

ISBN-10: 0375864377

ISBN-13: 9780375864377

→ As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I also may use affiliate links elsewhere in my site.

What People Are Saying About My Book:

Read or write reviews on Goodreads →

“Fifth-grader Ronald “Cheesie” Mack’s problems (like how to outsmart his evil older sister) may be ordinary, but in the hands of first-time author Cotler they’re plenty entertaining. Playful use of language. Many entertaining bit characters. Cotler blatantly sets readers up for Cheesie’s next adventure; after this installment, they’ll be ready for it.”

Publishers Weekly

“Ronald “Cheesie” Mack and his best friend, Georgie, are about to graduate fifth grade and embark on the best summer ever. Readers will be happy to learn that Cotler’s debut is the first in a new series. Cheesie chattily narrates his own story; his voice rings true, and the other characters are a gently quirky, appealing lot. His periodic invitations to read posts on or add stories to the website will hook denizens of the digital generation.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Ronald, aka Cheesie, Mack is looking forward to a summer of scheming with his best friend, Georgie, terrorizing his sister June “the Goon,” and finally attending camp with Georgie as cool older campers. [T]hen Georgie finds an old letter containing a century-old penny and a locket, a mystery that eventually leads the pals to the Haunted Toad, a local rundown mansion. This is Cheesie’s story, and his easygoing, accessible voice will certainly appeal to middle-grade readers. From the plot to unleash mouse madness at the school graduation to his obsession with besting his older sister, the action here is all fun and games.”

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“Ronald Mack—better known as “Cheesie”—is an almost-11-year-old with a knack for silliness and trouble. Cheesie’s best friend, Georgie, is with him every step of the way. When the boys find a mysterious envelope, they’re in for the adventure of a lifetime. [A] rollicking read.”

School Library Journal

Comments from my Readers & Friends

  1. Hi Cheesie!!! I haven’t finish your book yet but I LOVE it!!! How long did it take to write your book? 😀

  2. Hey Cheesie! Did this really all happen to you or did you make it up. You are a great writer and you make it sound as if you were actuallydoing it then and there.

    1. Like I said in Chapter 0:
      “Everything in this book is true. I did not make anything up. I’m definitely not a genius or anything, but I remember all the details because I was there when everything happened.”

  3. Hi Cheesie!!!
    We just felt like writing you a letter because we were bored! Lets start by saying Hi My name is libby, (Holly is writing this with me)oh wait recess time! See ya later!
    Libby and Holly

    1. Hi, Holly and Libby!
      I just finished volleyball, which I am okay at, but it’s not my best sport, and now I am in the computer room, and then it’s off to math class, which is the last of the day for me.
      Thanks for saying hi!

  4. I really liked this book but was sad that it was a little young for my students. We’ll be watching to see if you write anything for middle schoolers!

    1. Sure does! One definition of “goon” is an aggressive and violent young criminal. Most of the time, that’s a good description of the way she treats me. (Maybe not “criminal,” but pretty bad…)

  5. hey, Cheesie, if you like big words than this is the longest word in the world, i think:
    it’s a lung cancer.

    p.s i put it on your cool word list I think it was too big.

    1. Gumpy, my other grandfather, says there are lots of words in chemistry that are really, really long because chemists just stick prefixes and suffixes all together to make up the chemical name…and there’s no limit to how long it can be. But I like your word a lot. Gumpy says it means lung-very small-sandy volcanic ash-inflammation…which he says can cause lung cancer. UGH!

  6. Hey, I have to do a book report on a (real) biography and well this might sound dumb, but, are you real???

    1. Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado, Ranch dressing, and Tomato. Very messy and very tasty. It’s in my book.


  7. hey chessie your book is really good i have a sister just like goon but worse im on chapter 5

    1. Oh, my gosh! I am sooo sorry for you. Goon is bad, but if your sister is WORSE!!! Ugh.

    1. Thanks! I usually bat leadoff because I don’t strike out very much and get lots of walks. I do not hit for power, however. I have never hit a ball over the fence. Still trying, however!

  8. I am still currently reading this book but im on the 3rd chapter and this book is terrific!!!! Can’t wait to read more!! 🙂

  9. Lord of the rings is awesome.Yeah how many harry potter books have you read.Do you like that harry potter came out on DVD today.So bye

  10. Cheesie do you have a second book of Cheesiemack is not a genius or anything book. If you do when will it come out. Just curius.

    1. Yes, I do! I wrote it already and sent it to Random House, my publisher. I don’t know exactly when it will come out, however. Probably about a year from now. Phew! That’s a long time to wait.

  11. I laughed out loud about what you thought Messrs. might mean. My dad (who will be 100 next month!) is a numismatist, so I am going to show him the pages about the 1909 coin today. I really enjoyed your book, Cheesie, and look forward to hearing what happened at camp.

    1. Thanks, Andy! Your father is old enough to be my Granpa’s father. I bet he has some really excellent coins.

  12. Im only on page 9 and I love the book!!!! You have so much in common with me!!!! I bey by monday (its friday) i will be done with the book!!!!! Its an awsome book!!!!!

    1. Hi, Matthew. You must be a very fast reader to finish my book in two days. You say we have lots in common…well, here’s one thing more. My dad’s best friend when he was my age had the same last name as you!

    2. I am 10 and I finished it in 1 day, it was really cool how it all started and you and Georgie made that fling and hit your sister.

  13. Your step daughter is my first grade teacher! I LOVE your book, Cheesie (or Steve Cotler). You are now my second favorite author!

    Marc Adam Weiner

    1. She’s a really good teacher, isn’t she? And did you notice that my fifth-grade teacher has the same last name?
      Who’s your first favorite?

  14. This is the worst book ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Just kidding. If you read this then say “Hi” to Pandora, Devil, Deeble, Deebie and Deeb.
    Also say “Hi” to Sinko Jorsh for me. If you don’t know who’s talking right now it’s the person who waited a long time at the Bush School book fair for you to sign you’re book

    Hm? Know who it is yet?

    1. Of course I remember you, Ian! Did you realize that your initials are in my book? Look at the illustration on page 13.

    2. *whistle-whistle* You are so lucky your initials are in Cheesie’s book!!!!!

  15. I like your book very much. I love the parts where you make up words. And my favorite food is chocolate fudge brownie ice cream.

    1. Thanks, Michaela!

      Try to vote again for your favorite food, but no desserts this time, please!

  16. I am a children’s librarian and I cannot wait to share this wonderful book with the children at my library. I know its going to be very popular! I loved it.

    1. I live in Gloucester, which is not so far from your library. Someday, if you want, I’ll come to visit and read my book to some kids…?

    2. Wow! I would love that! You can e-mail me [email & phone removed for privacy] and let me now how to get in touch about scheduling a visit!

  17. I’m reading it right now! It’s awesome and really funny!!! Can’t wait to read the rest! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Megan! Please come back to comment again on one of my other pages when you finish the book.

  18. I read your book yesterday. Cheesie, it’s a most excellent story with great and interesting people. It’s been a long time since I was in the 5th grade, but your stories brought back a lot of pretty vivid memories.

    I’m looking forward to reading your next book.

    1. Thanks, Shannon. The cool thing about being in 5th grade is that everyone older than you has already done it, so they know all the stuff. Everyone except my Granpa. He says 5th did not exist when he was a kid! I gave him the squinty-evil-eye when he said that.

    2. I read your first book in 5th grade and waiting for summer to read the next it’s more intristing that way 🙂

  19. Chessie Your book is awesome!I am not finished.I am on page 91.I Love gorgie .He is sooo awesome You are my icon.

    1. Wow I wish I could read your next book now I finished the book it was soooooo good was the pizza party and camp fun I bet it was

    2. The pizza party was super excellent (Georgie ate a lot!).

      Here’s what I wrote about camp in my second book: “It was terrific, scary, goofy, and weird, but not exactly in that order.”

    3. Thanks.Tell June to suck it up and be nice to you.You are awesome.Do you like harry Potter.I do.Tell gorgie I would love to hang out with him and you.We could work on the the second book and play video games.The Haunted Toad is kind of haunted. So bye now

      p.s. Do you have a crush on Lana?

    4. Jake–
      1. No one can tell June anything!
      2. I like Harry Potter, but I actually liked LORD of the RINGS more.
      3. Thanks for the offer to hang out and do things together. One of the best things about having a book and a website is making friends all over the country.
      4. I do NOT have a crush on anyone. Especially Lana!

    5. Haha! Very funny, George (notice I did not write GEORGIE). You are a different George. I’m willing to believe you are awesome, too…but you’re NOT me!

    6. You bet Iam. Yesirree! Georgie Sinkoff in person. And I am sitting in Cheesie bedroom rightnow.

    7. if you get the chance, maybe tell Cheesie that the 31st Olympics are on.
      i’m watching it right now as i’m writing this comment.
      BTW, i made a spreadsheet with the results. when it’s complete, i’ll copy/paste it to the comment field.

    8. I like Lord of the Rings better too! I’m reading the first book (Fellowship of the Rings) right now! Who is your favorite character? Have you watched the movie? The first part of The Hobbit? I’m sooo excited for the next part!

    1. Thanks, Olivia! The girl on the bottom row of the front cover with the blond hair is Olivia. She was in my fifth grade class, but I didn’t write anything about her in my book.

  20. I like Cheesie and Georgie, and look forward to more stories! I especially like that Cheesie does the right thing, he’s my new hero!

    1. Thanks, Adriana. I really appreciate it. But maybe not ALL ages…how about kids who are so young they don’t know how to read yet?

    2. I’m a parent of 4 children between 12 and 3 and I would read it as a bedtime story to my non reader. How better to get them to appreciate books than start them early 🙂

  21. I LOVED YOUR BOOK SO MUCH! It is probally one of my favorite books. I really do hope you make a series of these books, about things or adventures cheesie and georgie have. I am in the Newbery club at my school and some of my friends have read your book and the LOVED it too! I hope that other kids in the future will LOVE your book just as much as I do.

    1. Wow! Thanks, Bridget. You must’ve read the book really fast. I am really glad you like it. I hope your friends do, too.

  22. OMG, IMO you wrote a terrifadacious book! Read it all last night. This book is for all 11-year-olds in body, mind, or spirit. I’m 70 and loved it.

    1. Thanks, Dee! I don’t think 70 is very old. My Granpa is way more than 70, and he has more energy than anyone I know!

    1. Hi, Kiki

      You must be reading an advance copy because my actual book isn’t out yet. So you aren’t getting a chance to see the illustrations inside. But thanks for commenting. I will have my website finished soon, then you can go to the GRANDPARENT NICKNAMES page and enter your grandma’s name!

  23. Hi Cheesie! I’m sure my students and I (I’m a Media Specialist!) will just love your book – it looks awesome! Wish I had an advance copy to read, so I could talk it up for you. 🙂

    1. Where is your school? If it’s not too far away, maybe I could come to visit…and talk with the other kids about writing.

  24. I work with Julie Higgins at Blossom Hill and I run our Media Center here. I am looking forward to celebrating your book with our students when it comes out. Best Wishes!

    1. i doubt you’re the real Cheesie, the comment box is green when it’s a character from the book.

    2. You are correct about the color of the comment, but I actually DID write that comment…and I do not know why is is the wrong color. WEIRD…

  25. Congratulations, Steve!

    I wish I’d had this book when I was in the fifth grade. I’d have traded a “Tower Treasure” and three “Melted Coins” for it easily. And the name, the name. I believe Cheesie Mack will slip into the vernacular soon enough, silently, as though it had always been there. Neat, Steve. Really, really neat.

    Very best wishes for success. What a gift for kids! Beautiful.

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