Friday, September 25, 2015

Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

This second story from Deckawoo Drive (Leroy Ninker Saddles Up was the first), young readers meet Francine Poulet, the fearless and fearsome animal control officer.  Following in her father and grandmother's footsteps, Francine is a first class animal control officer,  in fact, she's won 47 animal control trophies, more than anyone else.

Since nothing scars Francine, when she receives an hysterical call from Mrs. Bissinger that there was a most unusual raccoon living on her roof and tormenting her by screaming her name all night long, she is immediately on the job.  Undaunted and unafraid, Francine arrives at Mrs. Bissinger totally confidant the she will be able to capture the raccoon.  That is, until it begins to scream her name, too.  Suddenly, for the first time ever, Francine is afraid, so afraid she falls off the roof and lands in the hospital with several broken bones and a very broken spirit.

When Francine recovers, she quits her job as animal control officer and takes a job as a cashier at Clyde's Bait, Feed, Tackle, and Animal Necessities store.  One day, two children, Frank and Stella, come in looking some sweets.  Frank immediately recognizes Francine from a newspaper story about her and knows all about her exploits as an animal control officer and her fall from animal control grace and Mrs. Bissinger's roof.  But why quit?  Frank explains to her that the raccoon is a screamer, and suddenly Francine remembers her father talking about a screaming raccoon.

The raccoon had gotten the best of Francine, an otherwise outstanding animal control officer.  Maybe, Frank suggests, she is still a great one.  Could that be true, Francine thinks, could she possibly go back and get that screaming raccoon, despite everything that happened.

What do you think she will do?

Kate DiCamillo really knows how to write great transitional books for young readers, first with her Mercy Watson series, and now with Tales from Deckawoo Drive.  What is especially nice for these young readers is that they will recognize some characters from the first series in this second one, providing connection and continuity, a great support for developing readers at this age.

And this sense of continuity carries over to the illustrations by Chris Van Dusen, who has done the same type of spot black and white gouache illustrations throughout this book, just as he has for the Mercy Watson and Leroy Ninker books.

Some of the vocabulary will be a little sophisticated for some readers, but will hopefully encourage them to look up words they don't know.  And some kids might be reluctant to read a book with an adult main character, but I think Francine is a humorous enough character that they will overlook that (just look at the cover), particularly if they see her in comparison to the other adult in the story, Mrs. Bissinger.  

Like Leroy Ninker, this is a fun story that has a nice quiet message about not giving up even if you don't succeed the first time around.  And they may enjoy learning that Francine's last name, Poulet, means chicken in French (lots of potential classroom discussion about that, I think).   I also liked seeing the encouragement that Francine receives from Frank.  Sometimes kids just see things more clearly than adults - in this case, Frank reminds Francine to just be herself and be proud of it - and it works.

I'm curious to read the next installment of Tales from Deckawoo Drive, and I hope young readers like this one so much that they will be as well.

A useful Teacher's Guide is available to download HERE

This book is recommended for readers age 6+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Candlewick Press

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