Jeff Pennant's Field Guide to Raising Happy Parents

Children - Preteen
266 Pages
Reviewed on 07/09/2023
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

When Kelli McKinney and her family aren’t exploring national parks, she can be found sipping cinnamon tea, struggling to keep houseplants alive, or chucking a toy across the backyard for her English Mastiff. She enjoyed an eclectic-yet-fulfilling career in corporate marketing before wandering off to be a children's author. JEFF PENNANT'S FIELD GUIDE TO RAISING HAPPY PARENTS is her debut middle grade novel.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite

Jeff Pennant's Field Guide to Raising Happy Parents by Kelli McKinney is charming, fun, and witty. It has lots of heart and personality. The main character is Jeff, who tells how he can't relate to his parents. They tell him one thing and then something different. He feels he's being stifled and misunderstood because he only wants to hang out with his friends. After all, his parents keep telling him to be happy. His personality really shines, and he has a sharp mind and is scientifically inclined, so this is how he deals with life as it comes up. But it doesn't seem to help with the problems he has with his parents, especially his mother. He is grounded, as many kids are, and he tries to sort out how to avoid this so he can go to GamerCon with his best friends. He receives help from the teacher in his science club, and he thinks an instruction manual on how to raise parents would be helpful.

This easy-to-read book will have you engaged from the first few pages. Jeff is an endearing, real, and well-rounded character, from his sometimes-irreverent attitude to his quirky ideas. This is a boy most kids can relate to. Kids often wonder why they can't communicate with their parents at times, and they want to branch out and have fun away from them, but they don’t like getting into trouble. This book would be perfect for a classroom, for parents to buy for their kids, or for kids to buy for their parents. An original gem for any tween-ager. Overall, a delightful story! If you want something fun and adventurous, treat yourself to Jeff Pennant's Field Guide to Raising Happy Parents by Kelli McKinney.

Marie Sontag

I agree. It's fun and adventurous. Kids and adults will love it. The author does a great job of giving Jeff a very authentic "voice." Well done!

Kelli McKinney

Here's what other people are saying about Jeff Pennant's Field Guide to Raising Happy Parents:

"Immersive and irreverent childhood angst with serious undertones—a book that demands to be read in one sitting." - Kirkus Reviews


"A laugh out loud theme that every kid will recognize and appreciate.... (A)n original and especially recommended addition to elementary school, middle school, and community library Pre-Teen Fiction collections for young readers ages 8-13." - Midwest Book Reviews

Jeff is a very relatable 5th grade boy who loves science projects, hanging out with friends, writing haiku poems, and his favorite video game, Fire Ant Heroes 3. He hopes to attend a gaming convention with his two best buddies, Evan and Quenton (Q, for short).

The only things standing in Jeff’s way are 1) his mom; and 2) his dad. It seems there are a few areas in Jeff’s life that need improving, like not creating huge messes at the house (especially not ones that require assistance from the local fire department!). He doesn’t want to risk his chances for attending GamerCon, so he decides to create a guidebook to keeping his parents happy by observing their moods and figuring out how to maximize their happiness; presumably, happy parents will be much more likely to let him enjoy gaming.

Kids who like humorous fiction such as “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” or “Dork Diaries” will enjoy Jeff’s exuberance and “go for it” attitude. The book includes several excerpts from Jeff’s guidebook illustrated with pencil drawings. As an adult reader, I appreciated the way Jeff’s character developed through the story; he made some positive changes, even while continuing to make mistakes. Readers get a glimpse of a loving family working through some problems and coming out stronger on the other side.

As our first-person narrator, Jeff is lively, funny, and smart—he’s a great story-teller, too!"
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for young fans of humorous fiction


This book was awesome! The voice is fantastic. Loved all the nerdy references. The protagonist, Jeff, is such a fun character that this book has universal appeal, but it may be especially enjoyed by boys and nerdy kids.
And as a parent, I appreciated that there was no questionable language or themes.