Does Deckawood Drive ring a bell to you? If it does it’s because that inimitable pig, Mercy Watson, who loves toast with a great deal of butter, lives on that very street. And Leroy Ninker is a character from Mercy Watson that DiCamillo has given his own book. The name alone is priceless. Someone at the National Book Festival asked her how she came up with these crazy names. She said she grew up in Florida where strange Southern names abounded. She said she went to school with a boy named General Payne (sp?) and his brother Sergeant Payne.As a consequence, odd names just come to her. 🙂
Just as in the Mercy Watson books, the illustrations are done by Chris Van Dusen and they have that lovely slightly retro, slightly cartoony, warm feeling that we have come to know in Mercy Watson. Leroy Ninker works in the drive-in theater and watches night after night of cowboy movies. He wants to be a cowboy….he NEEDS to be a cowboy. But his friend points out that, sadly, he is lacking the one thing every cowboy needs: a horse. Determined to be a cowboy, Leroy Ninker answers an ad in the paper for a cheap horse and ends up with Maybelline, the quirkiest horse anyone could find. Leroy speaks to her in glowing compliments and feeds her homemade spaghetti. But Maybelline doesn’t like to be alone much and one night a thunder and lighting storm spooks her and she bolts. Read the book to find out what happens to Leroy Ninker and Maybelline.
There’s something great about DiCamillo’s writing. She has won the Newbery Medal twice: once for The Tale of Despereaux and recently for Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures. She also won a Newbery Honor for Because of Winn-Dixie. For me, it’s her unusual language and her care to place the perfect word in a given sentence. The writing is always innovative, features some glorious words for kids to learn, and to top it all off, the stories are rock solid. I have connected to so many of her characters. How does she think them up? A pig who lives with a human family whose favorite food is toast with a great deal of butter? And a squirrel who not only survives being sucked up by a vacuum cleaner but comes out with super powers to boot? Thank heaves for DiCamillo’s wondrous imagination! I truly can’t wait to see what else is up her sleeve.