Monday, May 21, 2007

The Girl with Moxie: Roxie and the Hooligans

"DO NOT PANIC!" is the theme of Lord Thistlebottom's Book of Pitfalls and How to Survive Them, and Roxie Warbler (part Roald Dahl's Matilda and part Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking) has memorized the rest of the great Thistlebottom's words just in case! Roxie idolizes her adventuring Uncle Dangerfoot, who tells outrageous tales of his exploits with the daredevil author, and yearns to emulate his fearlessness in the face of danger. To tell the truth, though, she is scared spitless by the terror of Public School 37, Helvetia Hagus and her gang of hooligans.

When, in her morning ritual, Helvetia starts teasing Roxie about her jug-handle ears and chasing her around the playground, Roxie has to remind herself, "Do not panic." Roxie, with the hooligans in hot pursuit, tries to reach the sanctuary of the school by jumping from a dumpster into an open classroom window, and all land in the gooey garbage. Before they can extricate themselves, a garbage truck scoops up the dumpster and speedily deposits them on a garbage barge headed down the coast.

With Helvetia and the hooligans splashing along behind, Roxie swims for the nearest shore, where she soon discovers that they are stuck on the island with two bank robbers on the lam. Plucky Roxie steals water and food from the felons for herself and the hooligans, but when the crooks discover their supplies have been pilfered, they scour the island for the kids, knives in hand.

Roxie uses most of Thistlebottom's handy hints for avoiding pitfalls, earning the loyalty of her former enemies, and lays down an emergency marker on the beach which brings Uncle Dangerfoot and the intrepid Lord Thistlebottom to their rescue via helicopter. Roxie is the center of attention at last as the family and the reformed hooligans celebrate her courage and derring-do.

At only 116 pages, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Roxie and the Hooligans is a easy, breezy read. Roxie's inventiveness and pluck make for a fast and funny heroine who finishes off the felons and turns the school bullies into repentant buddies to boot! You go, girl!

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