Grades 2-4 172 pgs.
Oggie Cooder is a likable guy from a small town. He marches to the beat of his own drummer and is not afraid to be himself in all things. Oggie's parents run the second-hand shop in town and he finds his mismatched clothes from within its racks. Even his dog is eccentric, shabby, and lovable. His neighbor across the street, Donnica, is Oggie's polar opposite. She is nasty, flashy, and determined to be famous, no matter who she steps on to get there. When a talent show for kids comes scouting for fresh talent, Donnica needs an original act. She notices Oggie "charving" (chewing processed cheese squares into the shape of states) and wants that talent. Donnica easily convinces Oggie to teach her how to charve and secretly plans to enter the contest. The day of the contest arrives. After a series of misadventures Donnica blows the audition, but the judges happen to notice the talents of unsuspecting Oggie and a star is born. Donnica quickly changes gears and appoints herself as Oggie's agent. She wants to turn Oggie into a sensation and, in turn, achieving fame for herself. Oggie initially enjoys the unexpected doors opening resulting from his new found fame, but is the price too high? Oggie must stay true to himself, even if it means making some tough choices that Donnica will not like.
From picture books to serious middle grade fiction, Sarah weeks is truly an eclectic author of children's literature. Oggie Cooder is a hilarious early chapter book offering that is just right for the intended audience. Comic-like illustrations generously decorate the pages, the margins are wide, and the vocabulary is controlled. Oggie's name is the only unfortunate choice. It is difficult for newly independent readers to pronounce. Weeks subtly offers a pronunciation at the beginning of the book, but it still may be an obstacle for some. Still, the name is perfect for quirky, lovable Oggie, who kids will instantly root for and wish to be his friend. Kids will also enjoy seeing Donnica get her "just desserts" as the pushy rich kid that everyone loves to hate. The message of the story is to be yourself and to give people that may be different from you a chance. Other themes include the corruption of the television industry, the price of fame, and that money does not necessarily buy you happiness. The invention of charving is intriguing and may have readers reaching for the Kraft singles. Fans of Stink and Ready Freddy are the natural audience and those who enjoy this book will also enjoy the sequel: Oggie Cooder: Party Animal.