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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Skippyjon Jones Class Action, written and illustrated by Judy Schachner. Dutton, Penguin. 2011. $21.00 ages 4 and up

"But the kitty boy wasn't the only Chihuahua on board. His old amigos, Los Chimichangos, were going to school, too. "Thank dog you made it, dude!" exclaimed Don Diego, the biggest of the small ones."

As I sit here listening to the CD version of this new Skippyjon Jones story told in the author's own voice, I cannot help but recognize why kids love him so. His bravado, the thumbing of his nose at authority, his aptitude for leadership among his amigos and his insatiable 'bounce' through life make him everyone's favorite Siamese kitten, who perseveres with the notion that he's a chihuahua!

All he wants is to go to school. Mama reacts with an adamant announcement that school is for the dogs and her kitty boy will not be attending. You know about his imagination and the bedroom closet that allows  all manner of adventure for the young man in the Jones family. It isn't long until he's on the bus with his amigos and headed for a day filled with one escapade after another. In school, he meets a poodle principal with high standards, a whistle and a bucket of balls for chasing. (It will take time for your listeners to take note of the many breeds in attendance).

Skippyjon is carried along in the melee that results from ball fetching and lands first in art class. From one classroom to the next, the feline makes an impression, finally helping his amigos find a quiet place (inside the trophy case) to have a much needed rest. And, that's when they hear it:

"The gruesome grumble grew louder, and  along with it came the rattle and plink of the terrible tazalita. It was spinning wildly, right under his nose, circling like a polka-dotted shark."

His friends help him change into his superhero alter ego, donning mask and cape to do battle with the bully. A quick spin in that particular teacup has El Skippito Friskito turning green and wondering about his own sanity at agreeing to battle the bull-ito. What a surprise when they finally meet the wool-clad bully bad guy!

It's such fun to read Skippyjon's stories aloud. Filled with wordplay and a smooth mix of English and Spanish, prose and poetry, it keeps the tongue limber and ears tuned to the tenor of this his sixth full-length story. All the while we appreciate the shenanigans he imagines for himself, and his eventual return to the warmth of family. 

I love the acrylic, pen and ink illustrations! They are filled with as much fun as the story itself. It takes careful observation to see all Judy Schachner includes to delight her fans. I can read it numerous times, and am never sure that I have caught all of the sparkly details she includes to delight her readers. Case in point...did you see the sign-in sheet covered in paw prints or the merit bones earned by first graders?

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