Bill is, like many other boys his age, a big Dav Pilkey fan, gobbling through all the 'Captain Underpants' books in the space of a fortnight, and regularly haunting his website for news of forthcoming releases and to play unsuitable games involving animated poo. Captain Underpants and Super Diaper Baby are also probably responsible for getting Bill interested in doing some drawing; a habit I'm glad to see increasing at the moment.
The first Dav Pilkey books he enjoyed however and indeed probably the first 'chapter' books he read were the 'Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot' series, illustrated by Martin Ontiveros. They're a great starting point for enthusing early readers who want to feel grown up or for older, less confident readers who need a boost. They also feature live 'flip-o-rama' action at regular points in the story enabling the animation of real fighting. Cool.
Ricky Ricotta is a mouse who lives in Squeakyville and has some bully problems until he befriends the giant robot created to do evil by the dastardly Dr. Stinky. Together they defeat Dr Stinky and his new monstrous Hate Lizard, save Squeakyville and become the most popular pair in the school. That's about it really.
Told in 14 chapters each of under 100 words- this is a book that is easy to read but feels ambitious and empowering to the reader. Useful stuff. There are seven more books, each featuring a different terrifying threat from our neighbouring planets. Ricky and his robot variously defeat (amongst others) the Stupid Stinkbugs from Saturn, the Jurassic Jack Rabbits from Jupiter, The Mutant Mosquitoes from Mercury and (my favourite) the Uranium Unicorns from Uranus (who knew?). It's formulaic- but hey who cares? If you're struggling to find the key to unlock the joys of trash fiction to your 5/6/7/8 year old, this might just do the job.
'Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot' written Dav Pilkey, illustrated Martin Ontiveros,
pub. Scholastic isbn 1407107585