The other day, as I drove home from North Carolina, I suddenly realized that the blips and tings from the kids’ brand new birthday DS’s had stopped. Looking in the rearview mirror, I saw they each had out Ricky Ricotta books are were happily plowing through them. Mushroom can’t actually read them, but he’s trying in a persistent and unfrustrated way to read some of the words because he loves them so much.
In case you don’t know Dav Pilkey, he’s an author who has probably done more to bring young boys to books than any other author (as I wrote that sentence, I paused, thinking about Jon Sczieska’s Trucktown books… but no, Dav Pilkey gets more love from me on this topic). He’s best known for the extremely silly Captain Underpants series. However, he also wrote the Ricky Ricotta series about a young mouse and his Mighty Robot who fight bad guys from outer space.
The format of the Ricky Ricotta books is pretty unique. They’re probably not much longer than an easy reader, but they’re packaged like chapter books. Every single page contains art. In fact, in the middle of each story, there’s a “flip-o-rama” where you can flutter the page like a flipbook and see the pictures move. The text on each page is minimal. Some pages have as little as one or two sentences. Having pages with so few words is so key for some kids. BalletBoy is completely capable of reading every single word in a book like Frog and Toad, but the fact that there are pages of all text makes him feel intimidated so he often doesn’t want to. Having a book with a similar length but formatted differently, and with a such an exciting storyline, has helped him gain confidence to pick up the book when I’m not around and read for pure pleasure.
A lot of parents like to complain about Pilkey’s wisecracking, potty-centric humor in the Captain Underpants series. However, I’ve got no beef with anyone who gets my kids to pick up books and put down their DS’s without even a suggestion from me.