Review of Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride. By Kate Dicamillo. Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen, 2006. 73 Pages. Tr. $12.99, ISBN 0-7636-2332-6
Are you looking for fun and excitement while reading? Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride is a fun early-reader fiction chapter-book. Complete with high quality illustrations, this reading can be considered a picture book too. It is fantastic for kids who are in the early years of elementary school.
This book is one of a series which follows the adventures of Mr. and Mrs. Watson and their fictional pig, Mercy, who likes to sleep in a bed like people and to eat toasts with a lot of butter on top. At 73 pages long with reasonably sized font, this book is well-suited for young readers. The artful combination of writing and pictures create images in your mind as if you are standing on Deckawoo Drive watching the Watson family, their neighbors Eugenia and Baby Lincoln, and the beautiful pink Cadillac Convertible.
The author’s message in this book is appropriate for the age of the readers. It addresses some daily issues kids should be aware of such as wearing their seatbelt in the car for their safety, and breaking the law is illegal and can be harmful. These life lessons are valuable to teach both in the classroom and at home.
Kids who are developing in early education require certain language in their reading, and the language of this story is definitely appropriate for this group. The flow of the story is natural but contains a few challenging words, such as menace and porcine, which a teacher or parent can explain with the help of the book’s illustrations. On the other hand, there are some words with easy to understand synonyms built into the writing, such as the connection between prodigy and miracle.
The structure of the plot is clear enough to let the reader understand the role of every character in the book and the reasons for their actions. Recalling Eugenia Lincoln, she labels Mr. Watson a menace because he backs out of the driveway without looking behind him. Baby Lincoln sneaks into the back seat of the car because she knows Mr. Watson doesn’t look behind him while driving backward, so there is no way he will see her. Further along, Officer Tomilello turns on his flashing lights and pulls out onto the highway following Mr. Watson because he is speeding, and speeding is illegal.
Kate Dicamillo and Chris Van Dusen’s colorful style of writing and illustrating enhance the message of the author. Importance of wearing a seatbelt in the car for safety is very clear after describing how Mr. Watson was wearing his seatbelt so he didn’t fly out of the car. This idea can be further explored in regards to Baby Lincoln and Officer Tomilello in contrast to Mercy, who didn’t wear the seatbelt and was therefore airborne. The picture of Mercy flying in the air supported the text to make the word airborne more clear for the young readers.
Grasping the characters’ personalities is easy due to how real the author makes them seem. Both the text and pictures show how Mrs. Watson is a loving wife and gentle woman who makes a special lunch for her husband and their pet Mercy every Saturday. She even invites the officer, Eugenia, and Baby to eat toast as a snack and allows everyone to calm down and forgive Mercy. They also show Mr. Watson’s carelessness, and how Mercy is an unusual pig who likes to live her life like normal people. The comparison between Baby’s adventuring personality and her older conservative sister Eugenia is captivating. And finally, Officer Tomilello who works hard to let people be safe and not break the law. The five people in the story are culturally responsive and can be found easily in the real life.
The text is complimented by very high quality illustrations. The pink Convertible Cadillac looks like a real car in the 1959, and the facial expressions of the characters are harmonious with the written expressions. The pictures are detailed in a way that makes the child understand every chapter in the book.
This book is similar to Thimbleberry Stories by Cynthia Rylant which is about Nigel Chipmunk who lives in a cozy little cottage on Thimbleberry Lane, and he has wonderful neighbors who are always up for a visit or an adventure.
As a final word, I loved this book. It is perfect for a snuggly read-aloud and to be shared with the dearest friends!
I also encourage you to visit Mercy Watson website which is very helpful for parents and teachers, and it is also full of fun for kids. www.mercywatson.com.