Mustaches for Maddie Encourages Compassion and Courage

Mustaches for Maddie Encourages Compassion and Courage

Mustaches for Maddie by Chad Morris and Shelly BrownSummary

Mustaches for Maddie by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown

Based on a true story.

Maddie is a normal twelve-year-old girl. Well, except for the fake mustaches she carries in her pocket. She likes to make people laugh and slapping on a mustache, especially a fuzzy pink or neon green one, always gets a smile. Maddie hopes that the class queen, Cassie, will find her mustaches as funny as she does and want to play with her at recess. She’s been self-conscious lately because her right arm only feels normal when it’s curled against her chest and she’s constantly tripping over her feet. But that’s probably just part of growing up and not something weird, right?

When Maddie’s arm continues to bother her, her parents take her to a doctor who gives them a shocking diagnosis: the cause of the abnormal behavior of her limbs is a brain tumor and she must have surgery to remove it. She’s understandably afraid as he describes the procedure, but knows she must find a way to be brave and must face her fears–all of them–at the hospital, at home and at school.

She will need all of her courage not only to face her illness, but also to face Cassie at school. Both Cassie and Maddie are auditioning for the same role in the school play, but when Cassie accuses Maddie of lying about her tumor in order to get attention, Cassie’s bossiness turns into bullying.

And as Maddie’s surgery approaches, she begins to worry more and more about the outcome. What if something goes wrong? What if the doctors don’t get all the tumor out of her brain? What will happen to her family? What will happen to her?

It will take all of Maddie’s vibrant imagination, a lot of kindness-both given and received-and of course, the perfect mustache to overcome the tough stuff ahead of her.


I’m not a middle-grade reader, but this was a book I didn’t want to put down. It was engaging, entertaining and sometimes even laugh-out-loud funny. I could relate to Maddie; she reminded me a little of my awkward elementary school self. Chad Morris and Shelly Brown have done a good job of capturing the social structure and challenges of life on the cusp of middle school. While the book itself is a work of fiction, it is based on a real girl named Maddie, the daughter of the authors.

The characters are relatable, the story flows well and is well-paced. Dialogue and description are integral parts of this storytelling, and what kid won’t be able to relate to the things Maddie says only in her head because she isn’t brave enough to speak up. Maddie’s mustaches work to help her make connections and lighten the mood when things are a challenge for her. The lessons of courage and compassion, both mixed with a bit of humor are a natural part of the story, and there is no forced teaching of the messages of this book. While I enjoy novels with a message, I much prefer those that don’t attempt to hit you over the head with that message—and this book does a great job of making it part of the story—almost without noticing it until you get to the end.

When I was in fifth grade, our teacher read novels to us each day after lunch. I am sure this book would have been one she would have chosen. While this book is certainly an easy enough read for middle-grade readers, it would also be a great choice for family reading time. The book includes a dozen discussion questions, which will help contribute to young readers’ understanding (and certainly don’t hurt us older readers either). Additional resources for using this book as a teaching tool, for both parents and educators, are available at the book’s website


Mustaches for Maddie by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown is not only a fun and entertaining novel, it is also an engaging way to help children learn that they have the power to be compassionate, creative and a positive influence on those around them. Mustaches for Maddie is also the feature title in Shadow Mountain Publishing’s “Compassion in Action” campaign.

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Mustaches for Maddie is available from in print book, Kindle and Audio CD.

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  1. How cute is this! I’ve never heard of this book but I’m definitely going to have to go grab a copy for my little guy!

    1. Marie Leslie says:

      I think he will really enjoy it, Jane. It’s a great book for middle readers to read on their own, but I really think it would be perfect too for family reading time. My husband used to read to our kids every night before bed–and this would surely have made the cut.