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Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off Review by Jenny Thompson

By Jacqueline Jules; illustrated by Miguel Benitez
Albert Whitman & Company
250 South Northwest Highway, Suite 320
Park Ridge, Illinois 60068

Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off is an adventure involving a boy named Freddie and a pair of mysterious shoes. This chapter book, written by Jacqueline Jules, is a fun and interesting story for young readers. Sharp, cartoon-like illustrations, drawn in black-and-white by Miguel Benitez, add to the style of the book.

Freddie discovers a box outside his door. Inside is a pair of fancy new tennis shoes that give Freddie the power to run faster than ever before. He can even beat the train on his afternoon train chase. Now he needs to find out who gave him this fabulous gift. He sets out to solve the mystery and helps a few friends along the way with his new super power. Helping others makes him feel like a hero, just like his father who had fought and died in battle.

Children ages 6-8 will truly enjoy this story, and younger children will love to listen in as it is being read. My daughter is almost 7, and she can read most of the words in this book. But the fact that there are so many words on each page overwhelms her because she is just becoming a fluent reader. Nevertheless, the enthralling story line will likely motivate struggling readers. The fact that Freddie wants to be a hero by being such a good friend to other people is a great lesson for kids. Homeschool parents can use this story to inspire their children to think of other qualities that heroes possess. Children may also want to imagine other articles of clothing that could give them super powers.

The comic-book, super-hero style of Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off may appeal more to boys than girls. I only found one part of the story to be questionable. Someone writes "poopee" on the toolshed and sidewalk near Freddie's house. The word appears several times in the book, but Freddie eventually uses his super power to clean things up. Later in the book, the reader finds out that a little boy was trying to spell his favorite word, "puppy." It bothered me to think of boys reading this out loud and getting a big kick out of saying the word "poopee" over and over. But I am glad that the author found a way to redeem this bit of bathroom humor.

Though this book might not be one that I would pick up and buy for my daughter, I do think other children will love it. I give Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off my recommendation as long as parents do not object to the things I've noted. For an early reader chapter book, the writing and plot are excellent, and the illustrations are so much fun.

Product review by Jenny Thompson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2010