Latasha and the Little Red Tornado is an engaging novel for young adults following eight-year-old Latasha Gandy and her mischievous puppy Ella Fitzgerald. Ella's puppy antics are almost completely out of control; Latasha must work hard to train Ella to be an obedient dog, even as she deals with the daily pressures of school and the repercussions of her mother's difficult new job. A handful of black-and-white illustrations enhance this heartwarming story about an African-American girl and her canine friend learning what it means to grow up and be responsible, together.
Midwest Book Review
Nancy Atwell said it best, “The job of adults who care about KIDS is to move heaven and earth to put that book into a child’s hands.” Up until last week I had no clue who Michael Scotto was, but after reading his book “Latasha and the LIttle Red Tornado” I can say that his book deserves to be in the hands of young readers.
Their is no doubt in my mind that Latasha has a chance to become a huge hit in my classroom. The protagonist in this story is an black third grade girl living in Pittsburgh. Students will immediately fall in love with Latasha in the first few pages as they are introduced to her spunk. Latasha is a character full of live, thoughts, hopes and dreams. She jumps off the page and into your heart.
I think that this book deals with so many issues that make it relatable to young readers. Here are a few:
1. Single parent home
2. Wanting to feel grown up
3. Having to have to spend a lot of time at a babysitters
4. Making friends
5. Being honest
6. Problems juggling responsibilities
Many more, you get the point.
Oh yeah, this book will throw you for a loop that you never see coming! We all love that right?
In my opinion we do not have enough middle grade books where the main character is a black female, and in many of the books that do have a black female main character, the book often focuses on racism and civil rights. I know that racism is still a huge issue in the world that we live in, but at the same time young black females need to know that their is more to them then just the color of their skin. I hope that this doesn’t sound wrong coming from a “white dude”, but I know that readers at times want to read books with characters that look like them, and deal with things they deal with, and I do not feel like the young female black population has enough characters like Latasha.
(If I was off base at all in the previous paragraph please leave a comment. I would love to become more educated in this area.)
If you are looking for a great read with a strong theme and unforgettable characters please give author Michael Scotto’s book a chance. You will not regret it. That is a promise.
LATASHA AND THE LITTLE RED TORNADO is the story of Latasha, an eight year old girl who lives with her mother and her dog. Latasha is feeling a little bit grown up because now that she is 8, she is trying to be more mature. Latasha's dog (Ella, named after Ella Fitzgerald) is past the puppy stage--she is two years old and still gets into trouble. Latasha is worried about this and works hard to help Ella learn to behave.
In the meantime, Latasha's mother finally gets a new job as a nurse's assistant but her hours are long and Latasha has to be "young lady sat" by their elderly landlady, Mrs. Okocho. Latasha is not overly happy about this.
I loved Latasha. She is a great new character for middle grade readers. She is a girl with spunk and personality. Her struggles and stresses are very believable and she handles most of them with grace and humor. Latasha's relationship with her dog is great. You can't help but fall in love with Ella--the trouble making not-so-little puppy. Latasha also deals with some issues of friendship and school struggles throughout the story.
I read this book in one sitting. I am always thrilled to find a new middle grade or series book character for transitional readers. I know how important series and short chapter books are at this stage and I liked Latasha almost immediately. I loved the community around Latasha. I loved the relationships Latasha had with her mother and her landlady. Latasha's teacher is also part of her community and I loved her relationship with him. The classroom seemed a little traditional (book reports, book contests, etc.) but the relationship between Latasha and her teacher was a good one.
Latasha is African American. I am not sure that is mentioned in the book but it is depicted in the illustrations. I am always shocked at the fact at how atypical this is for series and early chapter books. So I am glad to see that this is changing.
The book is short--132 pages. The print is a bit small so it isn't as short as it sounds but it is one that I see 3rd/4th graders reading pretty easily. The author/illustrator also uses paw prints between scenes in the book. I love that support for readers that do not have that much experience with chapter books.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. For me, it is almost always about the characters and I really liked these characters. It seems to me that this would make a perfect series--I know when I finished the last page, I wanted to read more about Latasha. The book is due out in November by Midlandia Press. So glad we had a chance to read it early. I am excited to share it with students in the fall:-)
A Year of Reading
July 25, 2011