Thursday, May 15, 2014

Three Strikes for Rotten Ralph by Jack Gantos

Three Strikes for Rotten Ralph by Jack Gantos

Rating: 3.5 stars

Throwback Thursday…sort of…!

I just don't know about this Rotten Ralph guy.  I'm totally on the fence.  On the one hand, it might be fun to have a character that is naughty and rotten and "makes bad choices" (to use today's parenting lexicon) in order to point out his flaws to my kids.  So that they avoid being naughty and rotten and so they don't "make bad choices."

On the other hand, Ralph is so selfish, haughty, and full of himself I don't like his example lying around my house!

On the other hand (hmm…somehow I have three hands this morning…), I am a huge fan of Jack Gantos' middle grade books.  I think Deadend in Norvelt is a masterpiece of story-telling and writing and I couldn't put down his autobiography Hole In My Life.  But Rotten Ralph and I are not friends--despite Ralph being as old as I am.

Ralph was still dreaming when
the ball thumped him on the head.
In this book (a beginner reader with short, manageable chapters) Ralph and the ever-patient Sarah go out for the team.  Whereas Sarah tries hard, practices, and shows up on time, Ralph is certain of stardom even before he dons a uniform.  Instead of practicing his swing, he practices writing his autograph.  Instead of paying attention on the field, he dreams of stardom and gets bonked with the ball.

Therefore, the outcome is no surprise to the reader: Sarah makes the team while Ralph gets cut.  But Ralph gets a second chance when Sarah's teammate is sick and the coach needs Ralph, now the bat…er, cat…boy, to step up and step in.  He actually gets a hit but doesn't remember to run hard and make the play BEFORE you celebrate your greatness, so…he is tagged out at home plate.

It's Sarah who is the hero with the winning home run.  "You are my superstar," purrs Ralph.  "Oh, no," replies Sarah.  "I'm a team player.  But don't worry, Ralph.  You will always be number one on my team."

I appreciate how Sarah still loves him despite his rotten, ego-driven behavior.  And I like how the book gives ample examples of what NOT to do--I get that sometimes kids listen and learn better that way.  Ben and Kiefer would give this a higher rating because they think Ralph is bad but his full-of-himself ways are hilarious.  Alas, I'm in charge of the typing for now, and I don't love Ralph.

What about you--whose side are you on?

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