One of the most popular chapter book series for newly independent readers turns ten
And beloved creators Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen give fans even more reason to celebrate with a new spin-off series Tales from Deckawoo Drive
Mercy Watson, the best-selling early chapter-book series written by the two-time Newbery Medal winner and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Kate DiCamillo celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. Launched in 2005 the fun-filled stories aimed at readers age five to eight star Mercy Watson, Deckawoo Drive resident, lover of hot buttered toast and the most single-minded of pigs when it comes to the pursuit of adventure – and treats. Illustrated in full color by award-winning artist Chris Van Dusen in his signature retro style, the Mercy Watson books are a popular choice with younger readers making the transition from picture books to chapter books.
Although the sixth and final Mercy Watson installment was published in 2009, the series continues to attract new fans and is published in ten languages with sales of over two million copies worldwide. Last year Kate DiCamillo reunited children with Mercy and her neighbours in the first book in her spin-off series, Tales from Deckawoo Drive. Once more illustrated by Chris Van Dusen, and with all the rip-roaring adventure of Mercy Watson, the series is aimed at older readers of six to nine. The longer chapters and fewer illustrations allow Kate DiCamillo to introduce another level of pathos and sentiment to this series of funny, touching stories starring some unforgettable, heart-warming characters.
The first title in the new series, Leroy Ninker Saddles Up, became a New York Times bestseller and Amazon Best Book of the Year. Leroy and his rusty rather than trusty steed Maybelline star in this love story bursting with impassioned declarations and plenty of hilarious horsing around. This summer saw the release of book two, Francine Poulet meets the Ghost Raccoon, which also joined the New York Times Best Seller list earlier this month. Francine Poulet is the greatest animal control officer in Gizzford County – but it looks like she may finally have met her match. Funny, fast-paced and with an empowering message at its heart, readers are reunited with some familiar characters amid some riotous raccoon wrangling!
Tales from Deckawoo Drive is the perfect follow-on for original fans who grew up with Mercy Watson and are ready to move on to a longer read. And for those readers new to Deckawoo Drive, this series is a wonderful introduction to a warm and witty world where readers are left feeling all buttery-toasty inside.
My Review: The characters in this story are so endearing. Even Eugenia! The antics of Mercy within these pages mixed with DiCamillo’s way of writing really push the Mercy Watson books past all the other early chapter books into its own league. No wonder Mercy is considered a porcine wonder!
Discussion Questions: What makes the Watsons love Mercy so much? What makes Eugenia dislike Mercy so much?; Did Mercy actually save the day or do you think it was all a coincidence?
“Mr. Watson and Mrs. Watson have a pig named Mercy.
Each night they sing Mercy to sleep.
‘Bright, bright is the morning sun,” sing Mr. and Mrs. Watson,
“but brighter still is our darling one
Dark, dark is the coming night,
but oh, our Mercy shines so bright.“
Goodreads Summary: Yippie-i-oh! Saddle up for the first in a spin-off series starring favorite characters from Kate DiCamillo’s New York Timesbest-selling Mercy Watson books.
Leroy Ninker has a hat, a lasso, and boots. What he doesn’t have is a horse — until he meets Maybelline, that is, and then it’s love at first sight. Maybelline loves spaghetti and sweet nothings, and she loves Leroy, too. But when Leroy forgets the third and final rule of caring for Maybelline, disaster ensues. Can Leroy wrestle fate to the ground, rescue the horse of his heart, and lasso loneliness for good? Join Leroy, Maybelline, and a cast of familiar characters — Stella, Frank, Mrs. Watson, and everyone’s favorite porcine wonder, Mercy — for some hilarious and heartfelt horsing around on Deckawoo Drive.
My Review: Leroy is just so darn loveable. His personality shines through the pages and you just are so happy that Leroy and Maybelline found each other. Also, Kate DiCamillo has a way with voice! I can always hear her characters talking in my head, and they each are so very distinct. I also love her use of vocabulary and humor–perfect! This one is going to be loved by many!
Discussion Questions: Why do you think that Maybelline is the perfect horse for Leroy?; Was Leroy truly prepared to have a horse? How do you know?; Why does Leroy want to be a cowboy?
“Leroy Ninker said ‘Yippie-i-oh’ because Leroy Ninker had a dream. He wanted to be a cowboy.
On Wednesday nights, the Bijou Drive-In Theater ran a Western double feature, and Leroy Ninker Stood and watched in wonder as the great white expanse of the Bijou screen filled with purple mountains, wide-open plains, and cowboys.
The cowboys wore ten-gallon hats. The wore boots. They carried lassos. The cowboys were men who cast long shadows and knew how to fight injustice. They were men who where never, ever afraid.
‘Yippie-i-oh,’ Leroy Ninker whispered to the screen. ‘That is the life for me. A cowboy is who I was meant to be.’”
Goodreads Summary: Deckawoo Drive’s intrepid Animal Control Officer meets her match—or does she? A funny, heartfelt, and fast-paced romp from the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
Francine Poulet is the greatest Animal Control Officer in Gizzford County. She hails from a long line of Animal Control Officers. She’s battled snakes, outwitted squirrels, and stared down a bear. “The genuine article,” Francine’s dad always called her. She is never scared—until, that is, she’s faced with a screaming raccoon that may or may not be a ghost. Maybe Francine isn’t cut out to be an Animal Control Officer after all! But the raccoon is still on the loose, and the folks on Deckawoo Drive need Francine back. Can she face her fears, round up the raccoon, and return to the ranks of Animal Control? Join a cast of familiar characters—Frank, Stella, Mrs. Watson, and Mercy the porcine wonder—for some riotous raccoon wrangling on Deckawoo Drive
My Review: Kate DiCamillo has a special way of writing stories. Her characterization is amazing which leads to truly full characters. Her vocabulary always pushes the reader yet never leaves the reader out of the story either. Her voice rings throughout the pages to where you can hear the narrator in your head. In this book, Francine Poulet is a character that all readers will love. She is determined, good at her job, and loves what she is doing. But then she faces her adversary. What happens after is what truly shows what type of person Francine Poulet can be.
Discussion Questions: Do you think Francine does her job because she loves it or because she felt pressured to do it because of her father and grandfather?; What vocabulary words do Kate DiCamillo use throughout the book to add more descriptive language and imagery to the book?; How would you describe Francine? Frank? The raccoon?
“Francine put the net on the ground. She took the binoculars. She held them up and looked through them. She saw the raccoon sitting on the roof, staring at her.
The moon was bright, and it was shining on the raccoon’s fur. The raccoon shimmered.”
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers’ Guides for Mercy Watson, Leroy Ninker, and Francine Poulet can be found on Candlewick’s website:
**Thank you to Alice at Candlewick for providing copies for review and for giveaway!**