This book and the others in the series have been in our school library since 2015 but for some reason I had not read one even though I am a HUGE fan of Kate DiCamillo.
As I search for junior novels for children in Grades 1 and 2, I picked up Leroy Ninker Saddles up at my local bookstore. This is another gem from Kate and it is an ideal book for those younger children who want a laugh or two and a very satisfying story. Leroy Ninker works at the drive in theater in the concession stand. Yes you will need to talk about the very first sentence - but this is the joy of reading - to share places and ideas beyond the known world of the child. Leroy sells drinks and makes buttered popcorn and for him the world is a 'Yippie-i-oh' place except for one thing. Leroy longs to be a cowboy. He has the hat, boots and lasso but, as the delightfully named Beatrice Leapaleoni, points out, he needs a horse.
Leroy sees an advertisement :
"Horse for sale ... Old but good. Very exceptionally cheap."
Good readers will see two key words here - old and cheap but all Leroy can see is a horse. He does not think about where the horse will live or what the horse will eat he just sets off on foot making an all day journey to the home of the horse. Beatrice tells him to "Take fate in your hands" and "wrestle it to the ground." She also tells him to check the teeth and hooves.
Along the way Leroy decides his horse will be called Tornado - Yippie-i-oh! But when he arrives the woman who owns the horse, Patty LeMarque, tells him the horse is named Maybelline. I can see Kate DiCamillo smiling when she decided on that name, such a contrast with the horse of Leroy's imagination.
Patty explains there are three things about Maybelline.
"she is the kind of horse who enjoys the heck out of a compliment. You gotta talk sweet to Maybelline."
"she is a horse who eats a lot of grub ... A. Lot. Of. Grub."
"Maybelline is the kind of horse who gets lonesome quick. ... Do not leave Maybelline alone for long or you will live to rue and regret the day."
Leroy has not really been listening to all these instructions. When he climbs on the horse he is filled with joy and distractions. "The colors were deeper. The sun shone brighter. The birds sang more sweetly."
Every young reader will see disaster is just around the corner but not little Leroy - his is such a happy optimist.
Here is a link to Kate's web site. Listen to the first chapter. We first meet Leroy in the Mercy Watson series. In this video Kate talks about her Mercy Watson series and how she then went on to write this series Tales from Deckawoo Drive. Take a look at this review in the School Library Journal. It will absolutely convince you this is a perfect little book.