"Let's go to the store."
"I finished my homework, so can I go outside?"
Old fashioned phrases and words evoke a time and a place for us in a way that very few other things do.
Imagine my delight in Kara LaReau's new book The Infamous Ratsos, when one rat brother, Ralphie, says "Righto!" as he responds to his rat brother Louie about things. In seven short chapters that make excellent use of every word ranging from easily managed ones to those that might require some research, LaReau shows her readers how two small rat boys and one lonely (but very tough!) father rat use being tough to cover their sadness. There is a nice mixture of action and character development when the two brothers look to get into trouble, but end up doing kind things by mistake. Kids will love this dichotomy. The illustrations by Matt Myers carry this story even further by using a backdrop of a crumbling cityscape, two rat brothers who wear clothing and hang out in alleys, and humorous names for storefronts that only the observant will notice. These illustrations will help bring kids into the story as they read the old fashioned gangster speak:
"That's mean," says Ralphie.
"That's tough," says Louie.
"Righto," Ralphie says, cracking his knuckles. "Let's make some trouble."
This book has smart written all over it. I can't wait to read it with the gifted first grader I work with. The use of the word infamous in the title starts us off thinking about how these two rat brothers, Louie and Ralphie are somehow famous for being bad. I love that I'll need to investigate this word with the students who read it before we even start. There is much to discuss and learn about how different relationships work ranging from father-sons to neighbors and even bullying on the playground. LaReau has done a masterful job to incorporate all of this into one very readable chapter book for first through third graders.