- Sadie and Ratz
Young Hannah lives with her parents and her four-year-old brother, Baby Boy; another prominent part of her life is her two hands, which she has named Sadie and Ratz ("Sadie is the boss. She is the same size as Ratz, but she is meaner"), and which wreak havoc when Hannah is upset. When Baby Boy discovers that he can blame his mischief on Sadie and Ratz, Hannah struggles to figure out what to do: "Maybe the only way to stop Baby Boy from blaming Sadie and Ratz for everything was to tame them, and make them nice. No! I couldn't do it. It would break Sadie and Ratz's hearts." Eventually everybody figures out what Baby Boy's been up to, and they also realize that Sadie and Ratz now have Baby Boy's hands as partners in crime: "Baby Boy said their names were Colin and Scraps." This is a quirky and intriguing child's-eye view of naughtiness, and Hannah's method of relegating blame to her personified hands will strike some kids as brilliant. Adults (and kids on the receiving end of such aggression), however, may not be so keen to let the kids off the hook for their more hurtful actions (Baby Boy, for example, is apparently responsible for Hannah's pet insect's losing one of his legs). It's also unsatisfying that the book ends without Baby Boy's getting called out for his false accusations of his sister or for his mayhem. The loose smudginess and skillful drafting of James' numerous charcoal illustrations effectively convey the characters' varied emotions. Despite its flaws, this could be a useful tool for helping young children deal with aggression or explore the complications of sibling dynamics.