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Monday, October 3, 2016

Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon, written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. Candlewick Press, Random House. $2016. $8.00 ages 6 and up

"At the top of the ladder, Francine stepped out onto the roof. She took the flashlight out of her mouth. She turned and shone it back on the ground, and there was Mrs. Bissinger, standing and looking up at her, all her jewelry twinkling and glowing. "Be careful!" shouted Mrs. Bissinger. "He is an extraordinary raccoon! He shimmers! He screams like a banshee! And so on!"

Poor Francine! Never has she felt so unsure of herself. Her usual self-assured persona takes a beating when she meets up with a very weird and defiant raccoon. Said raccoon has unsettled Mrs. Bissinger and she wants something done about it.

Francine's many trophies for past encounters with animals in need of trapping, and past generations of her family who have done such work, don't seem to be helping. Despite her concerns, Francine will not fear a talking ghostly varmint. She knows it cannot be real. Imagine her surprise when, facing her nemesis, it screams out the pet name her father always called her. She is so  frightened by it that she actually panics. That has never happened in her animal control lifetime!

She grabs the raccoon, loses her balance and falls from the rooftop. The body aches are matched only by the heartache caused by such failure. How will she get her confidence back?

In her Tales from Deckawoo Drive, Kate DiCamillo gives us characters to love and admire. This novel's length allows for enjoyable dialogue, a chance to get to know additional characters, and also offers a challenging read for transitional readers. Kids in second and third grade love to move up to lengthier text. Ms. DiCamillo provides both humorous and thoughtful scenarios to keep them interested and wanting more from the books they are reading.

They will be happy to welcome back characters from Francine's first tale. Friendships are strengthened, fears are faced, and Francine proves to herself that she is as capable as those in whose footsteps she walks. Chris Van Dusen ups the appeal with illustrations that match the warmth and humor of the tale. Fans will eagerly anticipate further adventures.

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