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Author: Jordan Sonnenblick

Illustrator: .

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Publisher: Feiwel and Friends, an Imprint of Macmillan, 2008

Material: hard cover

Summary: The fate of the Bulldog's Little League season rests on Willie Ryan's shoulders. The next pitch will decide his fate: hit a single, the Bulldogs win and Willie's a hero. Strike out, the Bulldogs lose and Willie proves that he is "victory challenged." Lucky for Willie, he had Lizzie to compound the magnitude of the moment ... and the humiliation of striking out! He needed to be alone so Willie took the shortcut through the woods. When he spots a leftover food bag in a stream and picks it up, he gets the surprise of his life: out pops Dodger, a blue chimpanzee sporting a pirate patch. And Dodger has a plan. He'll grant Willie three wishes AND help him become a better baseball player. Will it work? This is a humorous first-person story about a fifth grader and his life.

Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, independent reading, read aloud book, remedial reader, reluctant reader

Recommended Age: read together: 9 to 12; read yourself: 10 to 13

Interest Level: 9 and up

Reading Level: 5.1

Age of Child: Shared with nearly 7-year-old girl. Also reviewed by a student at North Junior High School, St. Cloud, MN, as part of the Use Your ABCs program.

Young Reader Reaction: Our daughter loved this book and giggled most of the way through it. We would read it in chapter segments, and she'd stop playing to ask us to read it several times a day. She particularly loved the humor and how Dodger tried to help Willie.

Student review: I liked this book because it was super funny and kept me entertained. I would read this again. I picked the book because the cover looked super funny. After the first chapter I was beginning to love the book and wanted to NOT stop reading.

Adult Reader Reaction: We both loved this book, and we were always interested to know what the other parent read. The story offers plenty of humor, great imagery, a little baseball history, and some lessons about friendship and being true to yourself.

Pros: Both boys and girls will laugh their way through Willie and Dodger's adventures. The story moves quickly and reluctant and remedial readers will enjoy having a more "sophisticated" story.
Student review: The book was very funny and made me laugh.

Cons: None, really. There are a couple of spots where it would be fun to have some black-and-white sketches.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This would be a great book to keep handy for reluctant readers. The story is fun, the humor is great, it is a book that begs to be read aloud, and they'll want to read it again.
Student reviewer: Buy!


Educational Themes: This is a book meant to be enjoyed as fun reading. Still, there are plenty of themes that kids can relate to: friendship, teasing, loneliness, and they each have different layers to them. Parents will know who the "Great Lasorda" is and likely get the "Dodger" connection, but kids won't ... so introduce them to baseball history.

Notes: The Reading Tub received this book at Book Expo America 2008.

Literary Categories: Fiction - adventure, sports, humor, friendship

Date(s) Reviewed: August 2008, November 2009, April 2014

Other Reviews:


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