LATASHA AND THE LITTLE RED TORNADO. Something about the email caught our eye and the books arrived the next day.
LATASHA AND THE LITTLE RED TORNADO is the story of Latasha, an eight year old girl who lives with her mother and her dog. Latasha is feeling a little bit grown up because now that she is 8, she is trying to be more mature. Latasha's dog (Ella, named after Ella Fitzgerald) is past the puppy stage--she is two years old and still gets into trouble. Latasha is worried about this and works hard to help Ella learn to behave.
In the meantime, Latasha's mother finally gets a new job as a nurse's assistant but her hours are long and Latasha has to be "young lady sat" by their elderly landlady, Mrs. Okocho. Latasha is not overly happy about this.
I loved Latasha. She is a great new character for middle grade readers. She is a girl with spunk and personality. Her struggles and stresses are very believable and she handles most of them with grace and humor. Latasha's relationship with her dog is great. You can't help but fall in love with Ella--the trouble making not-so-little puppy. Latasha also deals with some issues of friendship and school struggles throughout the story.
I read this book in one sitting. I am always thrilled to find a new middle grade or series book character for transitional readers. I know how important series and short chapter books are at this stage and I liked Latasha almost immediately. I loved the community around Latasha. I loved the relationships Latasha had with her mother and her landlady. Latasha's teacher is also part of her community and I loved her relationship with him. The classroom seemed a little traditional (book reports, book contests, etc.) but the relationship between Latasha and her teacher was a good one.
Latasha is African American. I am not sure that is mentioned in the book but it is depicted in the illustrations. I am always shocked at the fact at how atypical this is for series and early chapter books. So I am glad to see that this is changing.
The book is short--132 pages. The print is a bit small so it isn't as short as it sounds but it is one that I see 3rd/4th graders reading pretty easily. The author/illustrator also uses paw prints between scenes in the book. I love that support for readers that do not have that much experience with chapter books.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. For me, it is almost always about the characters and I really liked these characters. It seems to me that this would make a perfect series--I know when I finished the last page, I wanted to read more about Latasha. The book is due out in November by Midlandia Press. So glad we had a chance to read it early. I am excited to share it with students in the fall:-)