Thursday, July 19, 2012

Roxie and the Hooligans, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Title:  Roxie and the Hooligans
Author:  Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Publisher:  Aladdin
Year:  2006
Genre:  Realistic(ish) Fiction
Themes:  Adventure
Age Range:  3nd-5th Grade

Summary: (from Goodreads)

Do not panic.Lord Thistlebottom's Book of Pitfalls and How to Survive Them has taught Roxie Warbler how to handle all sorts of situations. If Roxie's ever lost in the desert, or buried in an avalanche, or caught in a dust storm, she knows just what to do. But Lord Thistlebottom has no advice to help Roxie deal with Helvetia's Hooligans, the meanest band of bullies in school.
Then Roxie finds herself stranded on a deserted island with not only the Hooligans but also a pair of crooks on the lam, and her survival skills may just save the day -- and turn the Hooligans into surprising allies.

Roxie is a charming little girl, and if I was stranded on a desert island I would definitely want her with me. She is the kind of character I think kids can relate to.   She is afraid of lots of things-most importantly, she is afraid of the bullies at her school who make fun of her "sugar-bowl handle" ears.  She avoids them as much as possible-until the day they find themselves stranded on an island with two bank robbers.  Suddenly, the bullies who had seemed to threatening show themselves to be real people, with their own fears.  And none of them is as well-prepared as Roxie to manage the many challenges they encounter trying to stay away from the robbers and get rescued.  
Naylor's writing is old-fashioned and fun, a throw-back to adventure stories from the past.  But I think that 21st century kids will find it to be quirky and engaging.  Roxie's resourcefulness is pretty unique, but the message is something we all need to hear now and again.  We may not be able to fight our way out of the swamp, or dig out of an avalanche, but we can do "this"-this one thing that has to be done right now, even if we are scared.  Roxie is a great example of how being brave has nothing to do with a lack of fear, but with facing your fears.
The book is pretty short, and the story is fast-paced.  There is not a ton of exposition of any of the characters, or the setting, or really much of anything, but it doesn't really need it.  I think this would make a good book for use with guided reading groups if you are doing a unit on adventure stories, or overcoming fears.  It would also be a good book to choose if you want an author study-Phyllis Reynolds Naylor has written about a gajillion books, including several series, and it might be interesting to compare how her various protagonists are portrayed.
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