Herrick, S. (2003). Do-Wrong Ron. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin.
Appetizer: Ron feels like he can't do anything right. He scores goals for the competing soccer team and he's the only one without a "date" to the Best Friends Ball. His parents don't seem to have time for him. And when he finds a guinea pig, Charlie, to make his pet and best friend, everyone in his small town thinks Charlie is a rat. When a new girl, Isabelle, arrives in town with her grandma, there's a chance Ron can turn around his luck and do right.
This book in poems can be a subtle way to capture middle grade students' interest in poetry. The book doesn't rhyme, but there is some attention to assonance. But what I a particularly liked is that most of the poems follow a pseudo-wreath format, in which many of the last lines of one poem are the title for the next poem. As I read, it kept me going, thinking "oh, just one more...one more...I want to read what happens next..."
There are still some natural breaks throughout the book, every now and then the point of view switches from Ron's perspective to his new friend Isabelle or to the perspective of Charlie the guinea pig.
I did feel like having Charlie's point of view, which is always presented as "wee wee wee wee...wee," did feel a little young for the age of the characters. But a teacher can still use this to the best of their ability and even though Herrick includes translations to all the "wees," it'd still be a natural activity to have students write their own poems from Charlie's perspective.
"My name is Ron.
Or Do-wrong Ron,
because I have this habit:
I do the wrong thing at the wrong time.
Or the right things at the wrong time?
Or the wrong thing at the right time?" (p. 1).
"Dad's in his study, working.
I knock quietly.
He stares at his computer
as I tell him my latest do-wrongism.
He says, 'It's okay, Ron, it'll wear off.'
'It's not foot odour,' I reply" (p. 4).
"I've tried. I really have.
In my mind I kick the ball in the right direction.
I give correct answers in class.
I mix the cordial in the jug,
between my mind and my feet, hands and mouth,
something gets lost somewhere" (p. 7).
"There's something just right about Isabelle.
I don't normally talk to girls.
Girls don't normally talk to me,
but Isabelle is different" (p. 24).
To Go with the Meal:
To teach this book, I'd initially have students focus on their emotional reactions to Ron's experiences. When have they felt like they made a mistake or have done things wrong? Have they ever felt lonely? Students could discuss their feelings, complete free writes or create their own poems.
Another tension is about where Ron lives--a small town in Australia. He wonders what it would be like to live in a big city like Isabelle comes from. Students can think about their own towns and cities. A teacher could also use this book to enhance a lesson on Australia, discussing the geography, culture and language.
Tasty Rating: !!!