Today's post is contributed by Stacey Rattner, the "leaping librarian" at Castleton Elementary School, just outside of Albany, NY. For the past two years she has run a 10 week Mock Geisel project with a collaborating first grade teacher and looks forward to doing it again this year. You can follow her on Twitter @staceybethr or http://librarianleaps.blogspot.com/.
Louie and Ralphie Ratso, the brothers who debuted last year in the Geisel Honor Winner The Infamous Ratsos, return for another exciting tale for the more confident readers at the upper limits of the Geisel age range. This time around they devise a master plan to set up the “Big City Fun Time Arcade” in an old lot filled with junk. It’s a win-win for them since they love junk and arcades. The catch is that the lot is adjacent to a house rumored to be haunted. When a bell from one of the games goes flying next door, it is Louie who faces his fears and discovers that the house’s resident is not as frightening as he might seem.
Then there’s Stinky Stanko. Could anyone be more smelly than her? Brother Ralphie doesn’t seem to think so. But wait?! Did Ralphie walk Stinky home from school? It certainly appears that way from the bathroom wall. As beginning readers explore themes of kindness, judgement and the risks of jumping to conclusions, they will be surprised when they discover the truth.
Even though Louie and Ralphie are rats, young readers will be able to relate to their feelings, desires and dilemmas. The simple black and white illustrations demonstrate the story being told in this chapter book that young people won’t want to put down.
I struggle to recommend this as a true Geisel contender. On the one hand it seems too advanced for the readers the award is promoting. On the other hand, the Geisel award, according to terms and criteria, is given to books targeting readers in grades preK-2. This is the perfect book for 7 year olds. Many second graders have moved out of the emerging readers and are begging for more. This unbiased book will appeal to all kids, boys and girls, young and old of any ethnicity and they will feel successful as they read a “big kid” chapter book.
I love the perseverance of Ralphie and Louie. I laughed out loud at some of the humor (one of the prizes at the arcade is a balloon that reads, “Happy Rat Mitzvah”) and young readers will enjoy sharing the lessons learned with friends, family and teachers. The book is multi-layered, woven together beautifully between the text and Matt Myers’s simple but distinguished black and white illustrations. If reading aloud or sharing in groups, it definitely lends itself to great discussion.
Geisel or not? I could go either way. I feel that this is “YES! A definite contender,” and yet at the same time, “I hesitate. Not sure. Too long and challenging for my youngest learners.” Once you’ve read it on your own and decided for yourself, please come back and let me know in the comments.