Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Rope 'Em! by Stacy Nyikos

I love participating in Barrie Summy's Book Review Club, and I get especially excited when she asks for a volunteer to review a children's picture book. The last one I reviewed was An Apple Pie for Dinner, which is still a favorite of both my girls. So when Barrie asked if anyone was interested in reviewing a picture book by another member of the Book Review Club, Stacy Nyikos, I jumped at the chance. And I am very, very glad the author sent me a copy!

At first I was concerned. Amazon.com suggests the book for 9-12 year-olds, which seemed a bit old for a picture book. Would my 7- and 4-year olds enjoy the story or would it be too much for them?

As I started reading, I remained concerned. A lot of the book - which is hilarious, incidentally - is an extended pun I doubt my 4-year-old understood. It's a Western. Set underwater. At the "OK Coral." On every page I felt like there were at least two jokes I needed to explain in order for my children to "get" the story.

But I held off and just read the story, instead. And then I read it again. And again. And, later, again. When my Ada's preschool class started a unit on the ocean I allowed her to take the book with her to school to share with her friends. (Ada has a thing for the ocean and another current favorite picture book of both of my girls is a western: Susan Middleton Elya's Cowboy Jose.)

I'm probably underestimating my kids. I bet they do get the humor in a bull shark chasing cowfish. And what's not to love about a sea horse who's a champion herder?

I'm still not sure exactly what my girls like about this book. They can't quite articulate why it's so great, but they certainly ask for it at bedtime again and again. They love to hate the shark. They sympathize with the heros. And my preschooler is a big fan of the TEAMWORK message that ends the story and dovetails nicely with a concept emphasized at her school.

The writing is clever, and with all the puns there's plenty for 9-12 year-olds (and adults) to enjoy. But the story also works on a simpler level for younger children. There's not too much text on the page, and Bret Conover's illustrations are worth the journey through the book all by themselves.

I can tell you what I like about the book, but for a children's picture book I think the highest praise is when a child requests the book over and over. And that's certainly happening at our house. Cowboy José had to go back to the library yesterday, but we still have Rope 'Em and I know we'll read it again tomorrow!

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Barrie said...

What a lovely review, Sarahlynn! I'm so glad you volunteered.

Sarah Laurence said...

Terrific review of what sounds like a fun picture book. I'm sorry that my kids and their cousins are now past that stage. I love puns. I think you got it right about kids loving to hate a good villain.

Kathy G said...

I think the best kind of books (or movies) are the ones that work at multiple levels-something for the kiddos, and something for the adults.

Stacy Nyikos said...

Wow, what an amazing review! I'm so glad Rope 'Em! withstood the "read me again" test. Most rigorous there is in kiddom. Writing the story reminded me, at times, of watching Bugs Bunny as a kid and then as an adult. So many components of the cartoon flew over my head as a kid but that I got so much later. This is really random, but after I started playing violin, I saw a Bug Bunny cartoon I'd seen a million times before. As I was watching, I suddenly realized the music-which I loved-was the Wilhelm Tell Overture. That breathed new life into the bunny for me and somehow made those cartoons new again :-)

Staci said...

I believe you are correct when a child wants it read to them over and over again...that is the highest praise. Even though my sons are now 19 and 16 I could see them loving this one!

RobMonroe said...

Now I want to watch the girls through bed time one night...

I think our households need to do a book swap sometime soon anyway - keep this on in mind for us. :)

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