Leroy Ninker Saddles Up: Tales from Deckawoo Drive by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

Leroy Ninker Saddles up is the first in a new series of chapter books from the dynamic duo who brought us stories about a buttered-toast-loving-pet-pig from Deckawoo Drive. Fans of Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen's Mercy Watson series of beginning reader chapter books (you can read my review from 2010 here) might remember Leroy Ninker from Book 3, Mercy Watson Fights Crime, in which he was first seen stealing the toaster from the Watson's kitchen in the dark of night. While the Mercy Watson series might strike a strange note with adult reader, kids LOVE these books, in part because they are chapter books that are EASY TO READ. I write this in caps because, despite recent (brilliant) efforts by Scholastic and Simon & Schuster to bring chapter books to the shelves that are a step up from leveled readers (in content and appearnce) but not as difficult as Magic Tree House of Junie B Jones, there is still a great need for books in this range. With this new series, Tales from Deckawoo Drive, Di Camillo and Van Dusen have stepped it up a bit with a slightly higher reading level and a sleeker, smaller format. 

Leroy has his own series now and it starts off with the fulfillment of a very big dream. Leroy works at the concession stand of the Bijou Drive-In Theater, where it's his job to "pour drinks and butter popcorn and smile a very large smile." Leroy's favorite night to work is Wednsdays when the Bijou runs a Western double feature, and his favorite response to almost anything is, "Yippie-i-oh." Leroy is convinced he was meant to be a cowboy, but as his coworker, ticket taker Beatrice Leapaleoni, points out, Leroy does not have a horse. But, an ad in the paper changes all that. With dreams of a sturdy steed that he will name Tornado, Leroy walks off into the sunset to meet his destiny.

This is where Ms. Patty LeMarque and her horse Maybelline come in. Looking for a good home for her old, particular, almost toothless horse, she decides (who knows why???) that Leroy will do just fine.

The humor (and anxiety) in the book comes from Leroy's misguided but well meaning attempts to be a horse owner. Patty LeMarque gives Leroy three hard rules to follow when it comes to Maybelline and, as he stumbles his way through the day, he does his best to follow them. But things don't always work out and Leroy finds himself running through the neighborhood in the rain, in his soggy socks, trying to find his horse. Leroy Ninker Saddles ends, happily, on Deckawoo Drive where Leroy is reunited with Maybelline, sharing buttered toast with the Watsons, Frank and Stella.

Source: Review Copy

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