Not many children can boast about an uncle who wrestles alligators or jumps from planes, so when Roxie Warbler's Uncle Dangerfoot, the traveling companion of London's Lord Thistlebottom, recounts his harrowing journeys around the globe, Roxie is all ears. Unfortunately, it is the girl's ears, like the handles on a sugar bowl, that land nine-year-old Roxie in her own adventures in Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Roxie and the Hooligans.
While escaping taunts about her ears and tossed eggs thrown by Helvetia Hagus and her hooligans Simon Surly, Freddy Filch and Smoky Jo Roxie lands in Public School Number Thirty-Seven's Dumpster. In a final attempt to catch Roxie, the hooligans fall in the same Dumpster, which is suddenly carried away from their New England coastal town by a garbage truck, dumped onto a barge and emptied out at sea. The youngsters spot a nearby island and swim for safety.
The island is far from tranquil, however, with no fresh food or water and bank robbers on the lam, ready to slit the throat of anyone they find. Roxie, who has memorized Lord Thistlebottom's Book of Pitfalls and How to Survive, soon goes from ridiculed to revered by the hooligans, as she finds grubs to eat, sneaks through grass to steal water from the bank robbers, attracts the attention of rescuers and, above all, does not panic.
Naylor has the perfect formula for young readers down pat. Roxie's fast-paced escapades blend just the right amount of danger and grossness with humor and resourcefulness. The novel's strongest feature is Roxie herself, a spunky, witty heroine who will entertain boys and girls alike.
Angela Leeper is an educational consultant, freelance writer and survivor of many pitfalls in Wake Forest, North Carolina.