Thursday, April 19, 2018

🐸🐸Best Buds Under Frogs (Book 1 of The Rizzlerunk Club series) written and illustrated by Leslie Patricelli

There's nothing worse than being the new kid in school, especially if you are a shy, introverted kid like fourth grader Lily Lattuga. But luckily, that first day, Lily is invited to play four square with three other girls, and things go well, until she throws her lunch up in the middle of the game. She is quickly escorted to the nurse's office by another girl, who introduces herself as Darby Dorski.

Darby is as outgoing as Lily is shy and with a bit of a devil may care attitude. She seems to want to befriend Lily, but Lily wants nothing to do with her. Eventually, though, the two girls do become friends and have lots of fun, including trying to get some of the many frogs on Darby's side of the lake they both live on to settle in on Lily side, where no frogs live.

Lily is also the kind of kid who never does anything that gets her in trouble, but learns that Darby had a best friend named Jill, who always seemed to get only Darby in trouble. Jill had moved to London because of her mother's job eight months ago, and Darby is relieved she's gone. - no more getting in trouble. Soon Lily and Darby form the Rizzlerunk Club, of which they are the only two members. That is until Jill's return, complete with school uniform and British accent. Jill insists on not only joining the Rizzlerunk Club, but also being Queen of it.

Before Lily knows it, she and Darby both seem to be under Jill's spell and together they are carrying out Jill's pranks and schemes, and landing in trouble all over again, while Jill acts like she had nothing to do with any of them. Ultimately, Lily realizes the person she has become under Jill's influence is not who she really is and makes a decision that could cost her her friendship with Darby.

Patricelli, author/illustrator of those some wonderful board books, has presented a realistic portrayal of how fourth grade life, friendship and peer pressure dynamics can work in Best Buds Under Frogs. Fourth grade is a real transition year for kids, and can be particularly hard to navigate, and worse when you are the new girl and care about what people think about you, as Lily does. And Darby, for all her self-confidence when Jill isn't around, seems to be putty in her hands when she returns. It's an interesting reaction to Jill, considering that Darby's family has a somewhat loosey-goosey approach to life in general and child rearing in particular, and that they come across as a close, loving, intact family, leaving one to wonder why she needs Jill in the first place. I never felt like I found a satisfactory answer for it. Lily's family is just a close and loving, but a little stricter - for example, TV and sweets are both limited by their health-conscious mother. Both girls have siblings, but so far, their troubles are only school and friend related.

Both girls (and Jill) live on a large lake, and although they always wear life vests when in their pedal or rowboats, they are always in them without an adult, even in rainstorms. I had kind of a problem with that or am I being overly parental about it? Because then, I thought of things I did at that age, like riding the subway alone, or going to Prospect Park lake with my best friend and catching tadpoles and the occasional frog (none of which we kept) by ourselves.

For the most part, I found this book to be very funny, and I enjoyed Lily's cartoon-like illustrations that Patricelli peppered throughout the book. I thought this is a good transition book for kids ready to move on from chapter books, but not ready for middle grade stories or for students in fourth grade, and whose reading level is at a second or third grade level. I always found in my classes that books at that level didn't interest them. This would have been an ideal story for them.

I'm looking forward to reading Lily and Darby's next adventure.

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Candlewick Press

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