Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Infamous Ratsos, by Kara LaReau -- Humor hooks developing readers (ages 6-9)

Reading can be tough work, so I often try to give developing readers a big dose of humor to keep them engaged in stories. These new readers also need a story that develops in a predictable way, so they can build a solid understanding of the plot and characters. The Infamous Ratsos, a new chapter book, hits the sweet spot--providing humor and a story that's engaging, but easy to follow.
The Infamous Ratsos
by Kara LaReau
illustrated by Matt Myers
Candlewick, 2016
Your local library
ages 6-9
Louie and Ralphie want to be tough just like their dad, Big Lou. "There are two kinds of people in this world," Big Lou likes to say. "Those who are tough, and those who are soft." Louie and Ralphie decide they're going to show everyone just how tough they are.
"Let's do something," Louie says to Ralphie. "Something to make us look tough."
The brothers decide to play mean tricks on other people in order to look tough. On the playground, they steal big badger's hat on the playground, trying to look like playground bullies. But it turns out that they've rescued Tiny Crawley's hat which the badger (the real bully) had stolen. Nothing ever comes out quite like they plan--instead of doing dastardly deeds, they help people.
"That was nice of you boys, sticking up for Tiny," says Miss Beavers.
"We're not nice, we're TOUGH," Louie tries to explain...
But no one is listening. Instead, everyone on the playground is looking at the Ratso brothers like their heroes.
Short chapters, frequent illustrations and large font make this book well suited for developing readers. In four successive chapters, Ralphie and Louie try to do mean things and show everyone just how bad they are. Young readers will enjoy finding how things will turn out badly for the brothers, and soon will start predicting their mishaps.

I especially enjoyed the ending, when their dad finds out about how they've been helping people at school and in the neighborhood. LaReau has laid the groundwork--Big Lou's reaction isn't just that of a tough guy. He has a soft heart, too, especially when he thinks about Mama Ratso, who's been "gone" for a little while now.
"Being tough all the time is so... so... tough," says their father. He puts his arms around the Ratso brothers and pulls them close.
This beginning chapter book, similar in difficulty to a Frog and Toad book, will engage developing readers with its humor and twists, providing nice moments for talking about what the brothers learn in the story. A great choice for late 1st grade or early 2nd grade readers. Here's hoping for more trouble from the Louie and Ralphie.

Illustrations copyright © Matt Myers, 2016, shared with permission of the publisher. The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, Candlewick. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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