The Infamous Ratsos Live! In Concert! by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Matt Myers. Candlewick Press, 2022. 9781536207477
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3
Genre: Realistic fiction (with animal characters)
What did you like about the book? The 6th (and evidently final) installment in this early chapter book series finds Louie and Ralphie Ratso and some of their friends planning a fundraiser to help restore their neighborhood park. Their mother had been working toward fixing up the park before she passed away, and the brothers know this will be a great way to honor her memory. They decide to stage a concert, with Ralphie and friends Tiny, Velma, and Millicent performing as a tribute band to their favorite group, the Critter Kidz. Rehearsals are going great; Louie even gets permission from the Critter Kidz for Ralphie’s band to use their songs. But lead singer Tiny gets laryngitis, and Ralphie gets cold feet when Chad Badgerton tells him that singing in the group and wearing flashy costumes is “girly.” Despite encouragement from his father Big Lou, and the protests from his bandmates, Ralphie is ready to quit until a visit to Chad’s home sheds a little light on Chad’s attitude and brings about a surprising resolution.
Easy-to-read short chapters with lots of fun, detailed black and white illustrations make The Infamous Ratsos an appealing choice for newly confident readers. Each book has grappled with important social-emotional issues in a gentle and humorous manner; this one takes on gender stereotypes and identity. There is a very comforting conversation between the boys and their father, who reassures Ralphie that he should “try focusing on how [you] feel and not what other people think.” That is of course much easier said than done for Ralphie, and readers will certainly relate. Ralphie is also emboldened by the support of his brother and his friends, especially Tiny, who has a very different reaction to Chad’s negative comments. While it handles the topic in a lighthearted and kind of vague way, this book could open the door to some conversation or consideration around traditional roles and expectations.
Anything you did not like about the book? No
To whom would you recommend this book? Kids who have read previous Ratsos books, and any who gravitate toward illustrated early fiction series such as Fergus & Zeke, Sydney & Simon, or the Judy Moody & Friends set.
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Fiction, chapter book series
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.
Date of review: August 15, 2022