Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up

Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator:  Chris Van Dusen 
Fiction  Series
For ages 6 to 8
Candlewick Press, 2014   ISBN: 978-0763663391

Leroy Ninker works at concession stand at the Bijou Drive-in Theatre. Every day he assiduously butters pop-corn, pour drinks, and smiles at the folks who come to watch the movies. Leroy also is prone to saying “Yippee-i-oh,” and he does this because more than anything in the world he wants to be a cowboy. He wants to be a bona fide, lasso-carrying, boot-and-ten-gallon-hat-wearing cowboy who fearlessly “fights injustice.”

The one thing Leroy forgets about cowboys - but his co-worker Beatrice Leapaleoni does not forgot - is that cowboys have horses. If Leroy really wants to be a cowboy, having the right hat, lasso, and boots just isn’t enough. He needs a horse and it just so happens that there is a “Horse for sale” ad in the newspaper. Beatrice encourages Leroy to go and purchase the horse, to “take fate into your hands and wrestle it to the ground.”

The very next day Leroy walks to the place mentioned in the “Horse for sale” ad. As he walks he thinks about his future horse companion and he decides that he will call the animal Tornado, which is, in his opinion, “the most perfect name for a horse ever.” Tornado is going to be his dream horse, the horse that will finally make it possible for him to be a cowboy.

When he gets to his destination, Leroy finds out the horse is an elderly mare called Maybelline and that if he is going to take her home with him he has to do three things: he has to compliment Maybelline regularly; he has to feed her a lot of food; and finally he cannot leave Maybelline for long periods of time. She gets lonely easily and when she gets lonely bad things can happen.

Leroy and Maybelline head home. Delighted by all the compliments that Leroy pours into her ear, Maybelline heads for town at a brisk pace. Leroy could not be happier and though Maybelline is not perhaps the horse he dreamed about, she is certainly the horse for him. It is only when he gets her home that Leroy realizes that he has a problem. Actually, he has two problems. His horse is too big to fit through the doorway of his very small apartment; and his horse is hungry and he has no horse food on hand.

Leroy Ninker and his new compliment-loving equine are going to steal readers’ hearts. The author combines touches of humor with a sweet warmth to give her readers a tale that will lighten the heart and remind us that we should never, not ever, give up on our dreams. Though, it should be noted, our dreams might not turn out quite the way we expect.