BOOKS: ‘School for Bandits'Raccoons learn how to be bandits in comical children’s tale by Hannah Shaw.
By: JEAN PATRICK , The Daily Republic
Ralph Raccoon is not normal. Unlike other raccoons, he’s nice, tidy and always remembers to ask before taking things.
When his parents see the extent of his problems, they send him off to school.
“School for Bandits,” by Hannah Shaw, follows Ralph’s lessons in proper raccoon behavior.
This behavior doesn’t come easily for Ralph. Even though he looks like everyone else with his black bandit mask, he doesn’t join the others in throwing food and turning over desks.
Worse, he’s always polite. The teacher, Miss Mischief, scolds him loudly, “You MUST learn to take things WITHOUT asking!”
When the “Best Bandit in School” competition comes around, Ralph is in a tough spot. How will he fill his loot sack? As far as he was concerned, “It just didn’t seem right to try to win a competition by being really bad.”
Ralph discovers an alternative way of filling his sack and ends up winning the contest. In fact, the “bigger, bolder and much badder raccoons” want to know his secret.
Author and illustrator Hannah Shaw has fun with this book, taking it in many directions. Since school teaches that “a bad raccoon makes a great bandit,” readers originally see the raccoons aspiring to be bad guys, such as cat burglars and pirates.
But she always adds the consequence. When the bad raccoons try to win the contest by looting, she shows them being hauled off in a squad car.
Even though the book has a wholesome ending, the book never becomes saccharine sweet. In fact there’s something comic about raccoons helping their community while still wearing masks.
“School for Bandits” can be read multiple times. On one level, it’s the story of true transformation. On another level, it’s full of tongue-incheek humor.
Even if you’ve had frustrating experiences with raccoons, you’ll smile at the truth of this book.
“School for Bandits.” By Hannah Shaw. Knopf, 2011, 32 pp.