Saturday, January 30, 2021

Big Brother to the Rescue: Ellray Jakes the Dragon Slayer by Sally Warner

"Are you paying any attention to me at all, EllRay Jakes?” Mom asks from the driver’s seat of our car, a Toyota so old they don’t even make them anymore.

"Wait. What?" I said, turning off my video game.

"I was saying, go inside and sign Alfie out,” Mom says. “And tell her to hurry, please. I’m afraid to turn the engine off. Darn car battery,” she scowls.

Ellray dashes into the daycare center, and not finding Alfie with her class, he ducks out to the outdoor play area. Yep, Alfie is with her four friends. But as he gets closer, he sees three of the little girls are together and Alfie is by herself. One of the three, Suzette Monahan, pulls the others away and they start to play a game. Alfie has a funny look on her face.

Even her new pink coat looks sad.

"Alfie!" I call out, loud as I can. "Ice cream! After we go shopping for dolls!" I add, inspired. ("There! That ought to get 'em!" I think!)

Ellray Jakes is a third-grader, old enough to know four-year-old bullying when he sees it, and at home that night Alfie confides that Suzette Monahan is being mean to her, telling the other kids to pretend that she is invisible. Ellray knows a frienemy when he sees one. He checks his suspicions out with Mom after dinner.

"It's that Suzette Monahan, that little dickens," Mom says, scowling into the sink.

Suspicion confirmed. Suzette Monahan is the Dragon, and he, Ellray Jakes, has to be the big-brother dragon slayer.

And two can play at her game. In her Ellray Jakes the Dragon Slayer (Viking Books), author Sally Warner has her hero Ellray hoisting Suzette with her own petard to make sure that his little sister will not be shunned at nursery school ever again. And since what goes around comes around, Ellray suddenly finds himself the victim of the same sort of playground scheme. Author Warner's big brother Ellray gallantly rescues his little sister and stands up bravely for himself in this installment in Warner's successful series about the Jakes family. Author Warner skillfully portrays elementary school characters with honesty and insight, and illustrator Brian Biggs fills out the details with great good humor. Other titles in this popular beginning chapter fiction series are EllRay Jakes Stands Tall, EllRay Jakes the Recess King! and EllRay Jakes Is Not a Chicken.

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