Some of my earliest memories include my mother reading to me from a book of stories that included fairy tales and Greek myths. I can still remember frequently requesting that she reread the same story of Persephone being trapped in the underworld after eating pomegranate seeds. I’d never eaten a pomegranate seed, so this story seemed so exotic and full of intrigue. By the time I was in second grade, my mom had me reading the Little House series and experiencing life as a pioneer girl through the eyes of Laura Ingalls. Then the horse books crept into my life: Thoroughbred, Saddle Club, Golden Filly, High Hurdles, and even the Lucy Hill Mysteries were all series that graced my book shelves. I read everything I could get my hands on! Is it any wonder that I went on to pursue two degrees in literature?
Ian did not immediately jump straight into a love of reading. He considered sitting still to be read to in the evenings as punishment. He didn’t want to sit still long enough to make it through a book, and he would try to choose the smallest books with the most pictures and fewest words. Ms. Virginia, a former supervisor who has a background in developmental learning, has a knack for assessing learning styles and meeting educational needs. She has kept Ian well stocked in books, and eventually being read to became less of a trial for Ian, and more of a pleasant ritual before bed. Virginia has insisted from the very beginning that parents should provide books that relate to their child’s interests. She has sent me home with dozens of books on tractors, bulldozers, farming, motors, and even dinosaurs. But then we took that trip to Alaska and Ian discovered huskies. Virginia has always been a research ninja, and she began to fill Ian’s bookshelves with books on huskies, particularly biographies of the original Balto and Togo.
Much as Ian enjoys these books, he still struggles to read them on his own as his attention wanes quickly. He still prefers illustrated books, preferable with full color images, but there are not many options available in Ian’s small interest area of Siberian Huskies and sled dogs. So you can imagine my excitement late last fall when I came across a post in a Facebook group describing a new children’s book series focused on a pack of Siberian Husky pups. I immediately placed an order through Amazon, and added it to the stack of Ian’s Christmas presents.
To say that Ian loves Hot Rod Todd to the Rescue would be an understatement. He has found a pack of Siberian pups (his greatest obsession), and each has its own unique persona.
Hot Rod Todd is the leader of the pack, and races classic hot rods.
Eye Patch Echo, one of Todd’s brother’s, provides comedic relief and help around the garage.
BBQ Haku, the only female pup from this litter, wears an attractive, but not overly feminine orange bow. She’s provides a strong model for other girls as she’s employed in technical communications for the racing team.
Rock Star Merc tours the world as an international rock music sensation.
Morse Koda, another brother, lives in Montana. He’s a bit of technological genius.
HRH Simba, the final brother, lives with Morse Koda. Like Morse Koda, he has also pursued a career in technology. Together they use technology to stay in touch with the other pups who live in Idaho.
The first book of the series finds the pups in the wilderness of Montana searching for their lost brother, Rock Star Merc. The pups receive help from wildlife, and are able to reunite with the stray Merc so that they can return home. Positive themes highlight the story, and the artwork is absolutely stunning. You can read the book yourself to learn more.
Here’s what I love about Hot Rod Todd:
- Ian is truly engaged in reading this book. He knows the names and appearance of each character. He enjoys looking at the pictures when he’s not reading, but as his reading skills improve, he spends more time reading to interpret the action he sees in the images.
- Ian is learning to think critically. We have conversations about the pups even when we’re not reading. On the drive home from school one day, we discussed which rides at Dollywood would each character enjoy most. Ian was able to use evidence from the text to justify his claims. That’s literary criticism! He’s learning how to defend character analysis. I know college students who struggle with these skills. FYI, Ian’s convinced that Rock Star Merc would love the Lightening Rod.
- The author is reachable. Mr. Adrian Czarnecki loves feedback from his readers and carefully considers all ideas as he’s working on a sequel. He consults with several parents, and always answers his email, even if it’s simply to answer a question about which pup would most prefer the Lightning Rod (he too thinks that it is Rock Star Merc).
- Merchandise is available to increase the fandom. Ian currently has two tee shirts and a neck gaiter featuring Hot Rod Todd. Balto has two bandanas featuring the characters.
- IAN IS READING! Now that Ian can read Hot Rod Todd to the Rescue by himself, he’s asking me to read the longer chapter books with him. Even on nights when I am tired and would be fine going straight to bed, Ian is coming to me and requesting that we read together. After we finish a chapter, he asks me to keep going. Sometimes he interrupts me and poses questions about what we’re reading. Other times he’ll take over and he’ll read a few pages to me.
The Adventures of Hot Rod Todd book 2 is now published and ready for purchase! Hot Rod Todd Visits Loch Ness is now available through Amazon or you can reach out directly to the author to purchase an autographed copy. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a sneak peak at this book, and I think Ian will love it even more than the first.
Last year we made a deal with Ian that when he earns a 100% on a spelling test, he gets to pick out any shirt he wants from the Hot Rod Todd store. Unfortunately Ian did not hit that goal during 2nd grade since COVID hit and remote learning didn’t include spelling tests. This year, Ian’s spelling proficiency is improving as he’s spending more time reading! Recently Ian earned his first ever 100% on a spelling test, so he’s heading online to pick out a brand new shirt with his favorite literary characters. I think he’s decided on Captain Chinook!
Ian is a completely different kid than I was. He’s not going to spend his spare time reading about Persephone or pomegranate seeds, but he is reading. I hope that someday he will look back to his childhood and remember reading with me fondly, but in the meantime, we will take his classroom achievements as they come. Thanks for the inspiration, Hot Rod Todd!