Cover To Cover…‘Latasha and the Little Red Tornado’

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“The babysitter’s here!”

Latasha

When you were a little kid, those three words sometimes meant fun. Mom and Dad were heading out, leaving you in the care of someone responsible and older who let you eat snacks you usually couldn’t have, watch TV you usually weren’t allowed to see, and stay up way past your bedtime. It was almost like having a mini-vacation.

But now that you’re getting bigger, you wish you could babysit yourself because you’re certainly no baby. But in the new book “Latasha and the Little Red Tornado” by Michael Scotto, illustrated by Evette Gabriel, a young girl learns that responsibility comes with growing up.

Eight-year-old Latasha Grady hates it when she’s sent downstairs.

That’s because Mrs. Okocho, who came from Nigeria and lives downstairs, is Latasha’s neighbor and her landlady and her babysitter.

Mrs. O can be grumpy but Latasha likes her, so that’s not the problem.

The problem is that Latasha’s not a baby anymore and she doesn’t think she needs babysitting. She really wishes Mama would let her stay upstairs by herself while Mama goes out to look for a job. Besides, spending time with Mrs. Okocho means that Ella is left all alone in their Pittsburgh apartment.

Ella Fitzgerald Grady is Latasha’s dog and she’s a wild girl. Ella—who was named after the singer—has a lot of energy because she’s still a puppy and she likes to zoom all over the apartment. Latasha knows that Mrs. O doesn’t like the noise that Ella makes when she gets the zoomies. Mrs. O doesn’t like Ella much at all, in fact.

Knowing that, and knowing that the red fluffball has a mind of her own, Latasha decides to teach Ella to be the best dog in the world. She has to do it fast, though, because Mama finally landed a job! That means Latasha has to spend after-schools with Mrs. O, but at least she finally has permission to take Ella for walks at a nearby park first…

But Ella just can’t let go of the zoomies and when the worst thing in the world happens, Latasha takes all the blame. Will everybody be able to forgive her?

Can Latasha ever forgive herself?

Looking for a good winter-break book for a kid who’s growing up too fast? “Latasha and the Little Red Tornado” is perfect, especially if that kid is a dog-lover.

With realistic situations and language that’s not fakey, author Michael Scotto brings young readers a friendly, smart little heroine who’s surrounded by believable, likeable characters. I really enjoyed this book because it’s got a little drama, some excitement, and—spoiler alert here!—some sadness that ends up not-so-sad.

You’ll also want to know that, though this book is meant for older gradeschoolers, some of its words are pretty big for that age group and independent readers may be challenged. Still, with a little help and such a wonderful main character, “Latasha and the Little Red Tornado” will keep your 7- to 11-year-old happily sitting for a good long time.

(“Latasha and the Little Red Tornado” by Michael Scotto, illustrations by Evette Gabriel, Midlandia Press, $10.99, 133 pages.)

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