2 out of 4 stars
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Imagine that you have a crocodile under your bed. How would you get it to leave? This is the dilemma that Mrs. Fields' class must solve in the imaginative children's chapter book, The Crocodile Solution: A Story from the Life of Ronnie Kaye by Ron D. Kingsley. When Ron's teacher announces that there will be a special assembly with prizes for the winner of the challenge, the class can barely contain their excitement. In over 30 years, no one has ever come up with the correct solution to Dr. Kingsley's challenge to get the crocodile to leave. Can Ron and his friends solve the hypothetical problem?
In the meantime, fifth-grader Ron is dealing with some challenges of his own in the second volume of the Ronnie Kaye series. The story is written in an amusing first-person narrative from Ron's perspective, giving young readers a glimpse into his humorous thoughts and his infatuation with the new girl at school. As Ron tries to solve the assigned crocodile challenge, he is antagonized by Henry Cloose, his short-lived status as a hero lands him in the hospital, and his bike is stolen. Kingsley addresses such issues as living with a disability, bullying, and ADHD through the entertaining antics of Ron and his friends. The story also explores themes of friendship, first crushes, compassion, and problem-solving.
The strength of this story and what I like most is the character development. Young readers will relate to the 10-year-old protagonist, Ron. He often gets carried away by his thoughts and doesn't always pay attention in class. Ron befriends the new student, Debbie. Debbie is a resilient girl with cerebral palsy; she has a spunky personality and a mischievous sense of humor. The supporting characters are equally well-developed and include Ron's twin, Veronica, and his best friend, David. Henry Cloose is somewhat of a class troublemaker, but readers will come to understand him better as the story unfolds. I also appreciate Kingsley's sensitivity by using Ron's curiosity to explain cerebral palsy to young readers.
On the other hand, I dislike the numerous inconsistencies throughout the book. For instance, Ron complains that the cell phones he and his twin sister have are basic and do not include texting. However, later in the story, he mentions texting David. Other inconsistencies are reflected in the spelling of a name, the specific day of the special assembly, and the color of Veronica’s bike. Also, there are instances when Ron uses words that seem unrealistic for his age and inconsistent with his character. For example, "flatulence" is not the word most ten-year-old boys would choose, and a reference to Botox also seems out of character. Lastly, Ron's reference to Debbie as a "little crippled girl" is inconsistent with the rest of the story's sensitivity in addressing disabilities. Kingsley needs to edit the outdated and insensitive term.
Likewise, the book as a whole needs a thorough round of professional editing; punctuation errors and the incorrect use of plurals and possessives persist throughout the book. Also, the story begins with the teacher's announcement about the special assembly. Given that the presentation is less than two weeks away, and it takes over 300 pages to reach the anticipated event, the page length seems excessive and may fail to hold the attention of young readers. The plot includes many memories and backstories from Ron that may be better suited for another sequel.
Additionally, some content is repeated as though it is being introduced for the first time, such as the twins' mother intentionally naming them Veronica Kristine and Ronald Kristopher, giving them the same nickname: Ronnie Kris. However, other pertinent information appears late in the plot. For instance, Ron doesn't mention that he has ADHD until the book is half over; this seems like a missed opportunity for similarly diagnosed readers to identify with the character early in the story. Perhaps Ron's ADHD is addressed in the first book of the series, but a reminder earlier in the sequel would be helpful for first-time readers.
This is a humorous and engaging story that has the potential to earn the highest rating once the inconsistencies and editing issues are corrected. Unfortunately, in its current state, I must rate it 2 out of 4 stars. I recommend the book to readers in the 5th and 6th grades. I am hesitant to suggest it to a younger audience due to a few instances of borderline profanity; parental discretion is advised.
The Crocodile Solution:
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