Leroy Ninker Saddles Up (Candlewick Press, 2014) by Kate DiCamillo
Mercy Watson was a staple in my first grade classroom, so I was excited to learn that Leroy Ninker was back with his own adventure. Leroy has repented his thieving ways is now a man with a dream. Inspired by the westerns he watches while working at the Bijou Drive-In Theater, he dreams of being a cowboy. The Bijou’s ticket seller, Beatrice Leapaleoni, encourages Leroy to follow that dream. She urges him to wrestle fate to the ground and get himself a horse.
Leroy does just that. He meets Maybelline, a big horse with a loud whinny, and it’s love at first sight. Silliness ensues, but as in all Kate DiCamillo stories, love overcomes all obstacles. Leroy and Maybelline even end up on Deckawoo Drive for breakfast with Mercy Watson. On the menu? Hot buttered toast, of course.
Leroy Ninker Saddles Up is a perfect read aloud for first or second grade. Mercy Watson fans will enjoy reading Leroy’s adventure with Maybelline on their own. This book is filled with sage advice (“Be a straightforward communicator,” Patty LeMarque tells Leroy.) and self-discovery (Leroy “never imagined he could string so many words together at once.”) But most of all it is a book filled with love, “word after beautiful word…”
Somehow I missed the debut of You Are (Not) Small (Two Lions, 2014) by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher Weyant, last summer. Thankfully, it won the Geisel Award last Monday, so when I saw it at the library over the weekend, I recognized it and brought it home.
Using just a handful of words, Kang’s text and Weyant’s illustrations work together to convey important lessons on differences and perspective. These concepts work on many levels, giving this book wide appeal. Younger readers will easily understand the literal meaning of these differences, and older readers will be able to infer a deeper meaning. Everyone will love that when the characters finally do find common ground, they celebrate by sharing a meal. After all, everyone loves to eat!
In classic picture book fashion, the final page presents a new possibility, opening the door for children to create their own You Are (Not)… story.