Thursday, October 20, 2016

What's Up, Chuck?

What's Up, Chuck?
written and illustrated by Leo Landry
2016 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

"Why did I ever think that I was any good?" he shouted.

Last Saturday,  I was watching my alma mater snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Anyone can be a good sport when nothing is at stake. It's when we really care about winning that we find out if we are good sports. Let's just say I needed about two minutes to become a good sport after my team's defeat. Chuck, a very artistic woodchuck, is, on the surface, a great sport. He has won the Best of the Forest art contest three years in a row and is the favorite to win again. Feeling pretty confident, Chuck welcomes a newcomer who also happens to be an artist. Scooter Possum hails from Swampy Swamp and needs a place to stay so he can participate in the contest. Chuck opens his home to Scooter. The two creatures practice their craft. Chuck sees that Scooter has got mad skills. I love that you can see the look of awe on Chuck's face and can combine it with an italicized really, as in really good, to get an idea about what might come next. With students who are just beginning to venture into chapter books, these are valuable clues. Being a hospitable woodchuck, Chuck throws a welcome lunch for his new friend and includes his famous sweet potato pie. Except all the animals gravitate towards Scooter's snickerdoodles. You can see Chuck seething in the illustration and more italicized words add to the tension. On the day of the contest, Scooter's painting wins first prize while Chuck is relegated to an unfamiliar second place. Amidst the applause for Scooter, Chuck disappears. Next, we see a furious Chuck crushing one of his sculptures at home. The aptly named chapter is Meltdown. Is there any hope that Chuck will get it together and become a good sport? Well, the next chapter is named Back On Track.

Learning how to win and lose are big deals in K-2 land. I have had to counsel many a child on the merits of being a good sport. Having What's Up, Chuck? at my disposal would have been a great help. Young readers will easily connect to this terrific story of how losing something leads to a greater gain.

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