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Review: Sadie and Ratz October 28, 2012

Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
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As a third grade teacher, I had a tendency to miss a lot of the high quality early reader fiction that has come out in recent years. My students still liked to look back at some of their favorites, such as Elephant and Piggie, but for the most part they were into Rick Riordan and graphic novels and my collection of Cam Jansen gathered dust. Old habits are hard to break, but I am trying to retrain myself to pay attention to new early reader and short chapter books that are gaining accolades from other teachers and librarian.

Betsy Bird of A Fuse #8 Production mentioned this new title from Sonya Harnett in a blog post earlier this year and as soon as I saw the cover, I fell in love. As a puppeteer, my first thought in seeing the cover was “Shadow puppets! Hands making puppets, just like my company’s graphic!” (you can see it here at www.witsendpuppets.com). The story doesn’t directly concern puppets, but the narrator does learn that hands, like puppets, can be blamed for certain malicious actions.

Hannah is the name of the main character, but as the cover illustration suggest, she plays second fiddle to her two devious hands, named Sadie and Ratz. In three short chapters, perfectly illustrated with charcoal illustrations by Ann James, we meet Sadie and Ratz as they ” Crush things..twist and scrunch…and scratch! scratch! scratch!” Most of the time these actions are directed at younger brother Baby Boy, who as Hannah comments, usually “…bellows like a banshee bull” in response to their shenanigans.  Harnett’s descriptive language is a pleasure to read, either silently or out loud. And any child with extremities that have a tendency to get them into trouble will sympathize with Hannah as Baby Boy gets crafty and realizes that Sadie and Ratz can conveniently take the blame for his own mishaps. Can Hannah find a way to keep Sadie and Ratz from automatically being labeled the troublemakers? Give this to a first or second grader who enjoys listening to Ramona, Clementine or similar characters. Just be prepared for them to name their hands afterward!

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