Baker is sure there isn't anything worse than moving. Except being THE NEW KID. Sure, Gram gave him Waldo, a ventriloquist's dummy, for company-- but a puppet, no matter how funny it is, can't take the place of real friends. Baker is bummed.
Until he starts school and discovers that kids in Texas (cowboy hats aside) aren't as different as he thought. And that puppets just might be the key to fitting in.
Baker, a shy boy living in Seattle, Washington, is hired by his grandmother to assist her with her very public puppet shows. He becomes her director, spotlight technician, and amateur puppeteer. Just as he is beginning to feel comfortable with himself, his father breaks the news that the entire family is moving to Franklin, Texas. Needless to say, Baker is reluctant to leave his friends, his new job, and his grandmother, now that she has made him a bit more confident. However, Gran gives him two going-away presents that will make the transition easier: a cell phone, and a ventriloquist's dummy, named Waldo Peppernickle. Waldo becomes Baker's alter ego and while Baker practices his ventriloquist skills, Waldo expresses Baker's thoughts, sometimes much too honestly for Baker to have said himself. In Texas, he is disappointed to find that his father's taste in a new home leaves much to be desired. There's a giant hole in the roof of their run-down Victorian home. His father intends to use his woodworking abilities to fix the house up. His mother becomes involved in a baking contest for the town's fair with rival town Buffalo Gulch. Baker befriends a redheaded, take-charge girl who becomes his first new "best friend." She pushes Baker to use Waldo in the school play, of which she is the narrator. When she comes down with the chicken pox, both Baker and Waldo save the day. Their school wins the coveted "Fair" trophy for the best historical play. Baker becomes the hero, tames the class bully, and develops two wonderful new friendships as well as a renewed sense of confidence.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-Moving from Seattle to Franklin, TX, is not Baker's idea of a good time. He's leaving his best friend and, more importantly, his Gram, a puppeteer. As a going-away present, she gives him Waldo, a ventriloquist's dummy. In Texas, he makes some new friends before school starts. Since he's a fifth grader, Baker is expected to participate in the annual play, in which Franklin Elementary competes against neighboring Buffalo Gulch. Predictably, Waldo steals the show. There is nothing particularly new or exciting about this novel. Of all the characters, the dummy is the most interesting. Kids interested in puppetry might pick up a few tips, but Gram's career seems like little more than a plot device.-Sadie Mattox, DeKalb County Public Library, Decatur, GA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Fifth-grader Baker hates the idea of leaving his Seattle home and his comfortable backstage job with his grandmother's puppet show, but a good-bye gift of a ventriloquist's dummy helps him make a place for himself in his new small-town Texas school. The story takes a while to get going as Baker recalls events of his fourth-grade year, when he joined his grandmother's show, and describes their last Seattle performance in which he impulsively joins her in performing. But after the move, the pace picks up as Baker finds friends in the neighborhood, meets and tames the local bully, becomes the director of the traditional fifth-grade play and, at the last minute, steps up on stage to play an important role. Baker's quick and relatively painless adjustment seems unrealistic, but in keeping with the fantasy of the puppet shows themselves. Roberts, a long-time puppeteer, has included splendid performance detail. Gentle humor makes this an easy, comfortable read. (Fiction. 8-10)
During her career as a puppeteer, Diane Roberts has entertained thousands of children across the country, most often in the great state of Texas. She's performed with Ricky Raccoon so many times that she continues talking with her right hand long after the puppet has left the stage. Diane and her husband, Jim, live in Fort Worth and are the parents of three grown children and have six grandsons. This is her second novel for Delacorte Press. The author lives in Fort Worth, Texas.