Richard dreams of landing the perfect flat-ground Ollie, but before he can attempt the daring skateboard feat, he must recover from an earlier trick that he played on his parents by concealing a teacher’s note informing his parents of lackluster effort.
Ms. Shelby-Ortiz knows that Richard can do better, but Richard just doesn’t want to think about it, so he leaves her note buried in his backpack. Eventually, of course, the truth comes out, and there are consequences, chief among them missing the birthday party where he plans to show off his trick. English’s longtime collaborator Freeman (the companion Nikki & Deja series) contributes illustrations throughout, often representing critical moments in the story. One memorably depicts Richard struggling with the spelling of q-u-o-t-i-e-n-t in a crucial spelling test in which perfection stands between him and the skate park. While it’s clear from the illustrations that Richard and his family are African-American, the text is largely free of cultural signifiers. The story reads much more like an all-American tale of a growing family amid middle-class suburban life than it does of a black middle-class family raising four black boys in the suburbs—an approach that broadens the spectrum of books aimed at young urban boys of color. Readers won’t find clear racial depictions, but they’ll still giggle at the familial mischief.
A welcome series addition that emphasizes familiarity instead of difference and treats its message with an affectionately light hand. (Fiction. 6-10)