Where's Roo?
by Jessica Crews

"Ricky-Roo pecked his way back to where he should be, and thanked God that he was able to talk, hear, and see!"

This delightful little picture book features a young rooster as the protagonist. Like all good protagonists, Ricky-Roo has a major character flaw. He is the most egocentric animal on the farm. It is Ricky's job to make sure that all of the other farm animals wake up on time, and Ricky takes his job so seriously that he believes he is the most important animal around. Clearly, Ricky needs to learn a lesson.

The book opens as the sun is just beginning to creep over the horizon. Ricky goes about his business, waking up the cows, pigs, and sheep. Like most alarm clocks, Ricky's shrill voice is not welcomed by the other animals, but this isn't because the animals are too sleepy to get up. They simply object to Ricky's bossy attitude and sometimes downright mean words. Ricky harangues the other animals, telling them how lazy they are and how hard he himself works to keep the farm running. Needless to say, the other farm animals do not take kindly to Ricky's attitude.

The next morning as the sun begins to rise once more, Ricky is mysteriously nowhere to be found. The other animals wonder what's wrong and head out to find Ricky watching the sunrise from the window of a shed. The animals ask Ricky what the matter is and express their concern that they hadn't heard him that morning. But Ricky just shakes his head and looks embarrassed. It turns out that Ricky has lost his voice. He has also begun to feel bad about his prior behavior.

Farmer Cleo has a veterinarian examine Ricky and the rooster recovers quickly. The next morning, Ricky is once again making his rounds, but with a major change. This time, Ricky politely thanks his friends for their concern and promises to be a kinder rooster and a better friend.

As a picture book for toddlers and preschool students, Crews' work hits all the right points. It includes a likeable character, plenty of endearing illustrations, and a moral lesson. Starting at about age two, children begin to express more of an interest in playing with other children, rather than merely alongside them. Yet, they still have trouble with basic social skills and they are still working on developing empathy. This is often a recipe for conflicts, which kids need a little help to figure out how to resolve. Parents can use Ricky-Roo's story as a springboard for discussing the importance of recognizing the feelings of other people and interacting with others in appropriate and respectful ways.

Ricky-Roo is a delightful character who will no doubt entertain young listeners and there are plenty of colorful illustrations to keep young eyes riveted while listening to the narration. The story would have benefited from more of a transition between morning and evening on the first day, but young readers aren't likely to notice this. At the end, the author caps off the story nicely with a list of fun facts about barnyard poultry, including behavioral patterns and reproductive habits.

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