The school year just ended, and there are already two new books in my “can’t wait to show the kids” pile. They are, as Mary Poppins would say, “practically perfect.”
Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson should become a read-aloud staple. Many reviews describe picture books as perfect for storytime, but then, sometimes, they just don’t work. Too much text or the plot is confusing. But Gaston is meant to be read aloud. I can imagine the kids laughing at the little bull dog who is raised – and loved – by a family of very fancy poodles. Gaston’s sisters (Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, and Ooh La La) are so refined that they would be excellent pets for Fancy Nancy! The little dog was not meant to look so different from the rest of his family, but due to a mix-up Gaston has grown up as its most lively member. Ultimately, on a trip to the park, Gaston meets a poodle named Antoinette: “It seems there’s been a terrible mistake,” Mrs. Bulldog said, breaking the silence.” The two puppies agree to switch places, but it’s clear that home is with their adoptive families. The ending is brilliant – but no spoiler here.
You can’t have too many cowboy stories, especially if the cowboy is as awesome as Leroy. Leroy, who readers last met when he was trying to steal a toaster from the home of Mercy Watson, is now the star of his own series by Kate DiCamillo. The first installment (which will be published in August) opens with Leroy working at concession stand at the Bijou Drive-In. Apparently, his toaster-stealing days are behind him. Leroy works at the drive-in because he likes cowboy movies. He has the hat, the lasso, the boots, and even says “Yippie-i-oh.” But he’s missing “something that the cowboys are sitting on.” After consulting the local paper, Leroy learns about Maybelline, a name that perfectly captures this horse – doesn’t she look like a Maybelline? Leroy loves her from the start: “You are the most beautified horse in the whole wide green world,” he tells her.
This is a sweet and funny book that is guaranteed to have kids waiting for the second part of Leroy’s adventures. And readers will be happy with the cameo appearance by Mercy Watson at the end of the book. One note, however….Leroy Ninker Saddles Up is a bit more challenging than Mercy Watson. After a child reads all of the Mercy Watson books and they are ready to move on, they can follow Leroy into the sunset….
One more thing….I was boxing some old books at school today. These were books that have not seen the light of day in many years, but had managed to stay hidden on shelves. Here’s one that was part of a series called “Things Men Have Learned” by Jean Wilson. Counting was published in 1969, and the text on the page below reads: “Often men and women in offices have very big sums to add up. They press down the numbers on adding machines and get the answers very quickly.” If they just had iPhones, they could lose that big adding machine!