In this debut collection of short stories and verses, boys face challenges and other anxiety-raising situations.
Written for readers in the upper grades of elementary school, these eight pieces all feature boys as protagonists. Some of the works have serious underpinnings while others are more broadly comic. For example, while “The Boy Who Couldn’t Say His Name” and “The Trouble with R’s” both concern speech problems, they take different approaches. The first story is silly and humorous—a student called Michael Shelley Van Fleet introduces himself to the class as “Michael Smelly Feet.” He stumbles over his words a few more times before he gathers confidence and the problem is solved. In the second tale, Matt pronounces R words with a W sound. Not only is this embarrassing and elicits teasing, he sometimes doesn’t get what he wants. For his birthday, Matt would love to go to the rodeo, but unwilling to say “wodeo,” he asks for a movie trip instead. His teacher gives him some valuable ideas for practicing the R sound, and his dad helps with making up stories with lots of R words. Thanks to these practical measures, Matt is able to win the class spelling bee, pronouncing the word “rhinoceros” correctly. Other situations in the collection include having a nightmare, removing bubblegum, wanting attention but not getting it, facing the difficulties of math and PE classes, and learning good manners when accompanying a parent on a business trip. In her collection, Madero shows kids gaining new confidence and skills through patience and perseverance. Her verses are clever and scan nicely, and the book has enough humor to make the lessons go down fairly well. Kids are likely to be aware, though, that the intent is didactic. Since the difficulties discussed could also be experienced by girls, it’s unclear why the book focuses only on boys. The images by debut illustrators Munari and Brusetti are dynamic and striking, with effective draftsmanship and color and scribbly energy. They depict a diverse crew of kids, plus the occasional puzzlement (an elevator operator in this day and age?).
Lively illustrations, gentle humor, and practical hints should help soothe kids’ worries.