While Rodney gets to know his new friends, he encounters a mean girl named Sally Tally. Sally desperately wants to win the annual Ocean City Air Race, and she’s not above cheating to guarantee success. Rodney must avoid Sally’s sneaky spies, learn how to fly an airplane, keep his plans secret from his parents, and try to win the race himself. It won’t be easy though. When Sally shoots down Rodney's airplane during practice (and the crash leaves his plane in ruins), Rodney finds out the hard way that Sally doesn’t like to lose.
Though sized like a picture book, the story is actually a chapter book with several full-color illustrations done by the author.
What I Like: : A central character named Teensy encourages the boys to read their Bibles.
What I Dislike: To me, the characters seem flat and/or stereotyped. For example, Larry the Lump is overweight and will do any sneaky deed for a cheeseburger. The super-smart boy wears glasses. Then there’s Rodney’s first friend, a boy named Matt. Matt is the exact same age as Rodney, holds the exact same beliefs, and goes to the exact same school. For the rest of the story, those two do almost the exact same thing, even to the point of echoing each other. (For example: “Not a word,” whispered Matt./ “Yeah, not a word,” whispered Rodney; “Yesss!” Rodney cheered and he eagerly climbed into his cockpit./ ”Yesss!” Matt cheered and he eagerly climbed into his cockpit just as fast as Rodney; and so on…)
Another quirky thing is the fact that the book has two child prodigies, alike in amazing skills but one is a believer and the other is not. Likewise strange is the fact that the star prodigy (Teensy) has a long secret passageway built into his house that leads to an underground laboratory. The lab has a large castle-style portcullis for a door. An enormous green lion-headed machine (with a human-like personality) also guards it. In addition, the lab has surface access with a carrier platform that goes up and down. The setup reminds me of Dexter’s Lab.
At some point, Rodney and his move fade into the background, and the story shifts to a flying contest between a Teensy and Sally Tally. (Yes, the children build and fly their own airplanes… at ten years old.) The change in direction makes the story less cohesive to me.
Finally, I dislike how the author seems to excessively use the word “so” to describe things. (So soft… so loud…)
Overall Rating: Ho-hum
Age Appeal: None is listed, but I'd guess grades K-1. It's too lengthy for the younger audience.
Publisher Info: WestBow Press, 2012; ISBN:978-1449736309; Paperback, 64 pgs., $23.99
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