Books by Blanche Sims

Released: June 15, 2005

Third-grader Matt and his best buddy Eddie want to win the $50 gift certificate prize for first place in the science fair. Eddie has a great idea—or so he says. Matt has a soft spot for Eddie, but some amnesia too. Matt has forgotten the time Eddie started a fire in the front yard and the broken laundry basket roller coaster. In the middle of all the preparation week, Matt gets a stomach bug and has to miss school. Worse, he misses working with Eddie. When he returns, he falls victim to his friend's impulsive behavior. Seems that Eddie has told all the details of his illness, including the dreaded word, "diarrhea." The volcano that was the science project is now exploding with Matt's anger and shame. When he destroys the plaster creation, the friendship might be over as well. It takes one sister, stranded on the roof, to bring the boys together again in this early chapter book about friendship and forgiveness. Fast-paced and realistic, this tale rings true for its young readers. (Fiction. 6-9)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 15, 2002

Gus and his family have just moved to a new apartment, but Gus is not making the most of his new start. His mother hints that his lack of focus, scatterbrained behavior, and general attention problems are nothing new. Even on the way to school on the very first day, a howling animal distracts Gus. The animal turns out to be a cat and Gus slips a string around its neck and tries to catch it. The cat escapes, Gus is scratched and bleeding, and he is late for school. This story, though good-hearted, lacks a sense of time and place. Except for the teacher's cursive writing on the board, readers have no idea of Gus's age or grade. Many of the situations seem unrealistic. Would a young boy with two parents really walk to a new school in a new neighborhood all alone on the first day? Would a child approach a wild animal and be able to slip a string around its neck? Would a new student be able to find an empty office and keep a cat there for weeks, undetected, without a litter box? Unlikely situations, awkward writing (including strange similes and confusing shifts from third person to first person narration), and an undefined setting add up to an unsatisfying back-to-school story. (Fiction. 8-10)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2000

Stern and Sims (George, 1999) join forces again for another easy reader in beginning-chapter format about an average boy named George and his older siblings. In this book the focus is on his irrepressible but appealing dog, Diggety. In the first story, the three kids administer a multiple-choice test to Diggety to determine his intelligence. The directions and answer choices are cleverly integrated into the text, which might be a useful read-aloud for children facing their first standardized testing. (And the story might be comforting to some, as "Diggety does not test well.") The second story has a sledding theme, and the third has the siblings baking dog biscuits for Diggety's birthday, with a recipe included for biscuits that can be eaten by both canines and humans. Teachers will like the integration of the multiple-choice test format and the procedural format of baking (along with the recipe) as examples of everyday reasons why we need writing in our lives. Kids will enjoy the illustrations of Diggety by Sims, also the illustrator of the perpetually popular Polk Street School series. Diggety is a charming, rangy dog (perhaps part poodle and part golden retriever) with fluffy tan fur and a big white spot around one eye. Diggety never does dig any holes, and there's an unnamed, shy gray cat in the background, so Diggety and George seem destined for more adventures, even though they aren't as charismatic as the characters in the beloved Henry and Mudge books. A serviceable addition to the easy-reader shelves. (Easy reader. 6-8)Read full book review >
Released: April 14, 1997

Marvin Higgins, something of a bully in Kline's Mary Marony and the Snake (1992) and other stories about Mary Marony, gets a book (and proposed series) of his own. Marvin decides he hates his teacher, Mrs. Bird, when he thinks he overhears her making unpleasant remarks about him. He also decides to show her just how wrong she is; a class trip to a museum gives him a chance to shine. A bully as the protagonist is an idea with real kid-appeal, but Marvin has been considerably toned down; his worst act is imitating Mary's stutter. As for the story of misunderstanding a teacher's remarks—it was done very well in Beverly Cleary's Ramona the Pest, and this version is bland and predictable in comparison. The black-and-white illustrations add humor, but they're not enough to save the story. (Fiction. 6-9) Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1997

Matt's new stepfather, Frank, is clumsy and uncoordinated, an embarrassment to athletic Matt, whose mother keeps pushing them into joint activities. Matt's friends find Frank friendly, but Matt remains steadfast in his determination to avoid a father-son softball game that he fears will be the ultimate humiliation. Then, during a trip to band birds with Frank, Matt finds reasons to reevaluate his position. There's a low believability factor from beginning to end, with unlikable characters throughout: Matt is mulish, and his change of heart is less convincing than his well-established stubbornness; his mother appears needlessly domineering; the oafish Frank is rarely more than a cipher. Black-and-white cartoonish illustrations match the simplicities of the plot, reinforcing the notion that these are stock types, loafing through a TV sitcom. (Fiction. 8- 11) Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 1996

Kelly, an eight-year-old aspiring writer, is the oldest of three children and has just moved to a new house where she shares a room with her messy sister Erin. The only kids on her block are two boys who are friendly but don't share her interests. She thinks everyone in her family is wonderful at something except for her, until she finds a private place to write her book (about a girl who becomes wonderful), Victoria. There's very little to hold interest in this story; Kelly's problems are minor, of importance only to her, and she is so self- pitying she becomes unlikable. Enderle and Tessler (A Pile of Pigs, 1993, etc.) don't give Kelly enough personality to make her real; throughout the book, the action reads more like filler than plotting. Sims's trademark black-and-white drawings amiably assist in establishing the setting. (Fiction. 6-8) Read full book review >
SHARK IN SCHOOL by Patricia Reilly Giff
Released: Sept. 1, 1994

Matthew Jackson is about to attend a new school, but that's not the worst of it: He hasn't done his summer reading because he thinks he doesn't know how to read, and he only has one friend, J.P. When school begins, the horrors mount. The other kids don't like J.P.—who's a girl, to boot—and he inadvertently breaks a box of the teacher's ornaments. Matthew hides in fear from his teacher, a.k.a. The Shark, and from J.P., who he's sure will never forgive him when she discovers he's making new friends. But the teacher forgives him; J.P. lends him a book that is so absorbing—about a boy who dies of a bee sting—that he reads it, although he thinks he doesn't know how; and he sets out to return a few favors to the people who have been so good to him. Giff (Next Year I'll Be Special, 1993, etc.) crams in a few too many themes: peer pressure and fear of reading, new places, new people, and teachers. Although the story is diffuse in the beginning, Matthew's voice is so appealingly realistic that it carries us through. A solid book that accurately depicts many of the heartaches of the first days at a new school. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1992

Three simple plays based on Giff's popular Polk Street books: The Candy Corn Contest, The Secret at the Polk Street School, and Fancy Feet. Each is introduced by the kids in Ms. Rooney's room who are planning a class play—a device that works well for conveying useful production tips. Staging ideas, property lists, costume suggestions, and makeup advice are all included, as well as the usual casts and settings. The tightly focused plays lack the warmth, richness, and detail of the original stories; still, for the harried teacher, this could be a splendid resource for independent group work. Children who love the books will also enjoy producing the plays on their own, or using them as models for creating other plays. A solid introduction for aspiring thespians. (Plays. 6-10) Read full book review >
SALLY ANN ON HER OWN by Terrance Dicks
Released: June 1, 1992

When her family outgrows their well-loved rag doll, they donate Sally Ann to nice Mrs. Foster's day care center, where she overhears a conversation intimating that the center may have to close. Anxious not to lose her new home, Sally Ann resolves to save it, persuading the other toys to help by reminding them that they'll be able to come alive only at night if they're loved during the day. Together, they unmask the unscrupulous real- estate developers who have posed as state inspectors and preyed on Mrs. Foster in hope of buying her house cheap. Upbeat and imaginative, an easy chapter book that should find many readers; Sims's frequent b&w drawings nicely capture the warm ambiance and perky humor. Marred by see-through paper. (Fiction. 5-9) Read full book review >
Released: March 25, 1992

Mary's heart pounds when the second-grade teacher in her new school says, ``I want each one of you to stand up, say your name, and tell us one thing about yourself.'' As Mary fears, someone giggles at her stuttered statement. It's Marvin, whose subsequent mocking continues to aggravate her problem. Still, some of the girls readily invite her to join them, and when Marvin steals their rubber-band jump rope they jail him in a garbage can, where he sticks. A discussion with her mother reveals that stuttering is an old family characteristic; with her encouragement, Mary agrees to work with a speech therapist, whom she likes immediately. When a garter snake that Marvin's father has brought in to school escapes, Marvin stands by terrified while Mary catches it and becomes the class hero. Ex-elementary-teacher Kline gives an entertaining glimpse of the challenges and successes of school life while offering a positive, sympathetic look at a common problem. A chapter book that transitional readers will enjoy. Illustrations not seen. (Fiction. 7-9) Read full book review >
EDDIE, INCORPORATED by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Released: April 1, 1980

With his father in the produce business, his mother selling homemade goodies, his oldest brother already assistant manager of a shoe store, and his high school brother already working toward a banking career, Eddie too wants a business: "He wanted a desk with a phone on it. . . . He wanted to be a boss." But he and his two friends abandon their aluminum can recycling company when it becomes evident that they are working for one and a half cents an hour each. A lawn mower collision squashes their three-at-a-time lawnmower service. Eddie's foot-odor fighter doesn't work, nor does the trio's neighborhood newspaper. The middle school principal outlaws their 25¢-a-head protection business, even though they deal not in mafia-style threats but in real protection. But all through these episodes are references to the surplus of little kids in the neighborhood and the shortage of sitters, so it's no surprise when Eddie's success turns out to be a baby-sitting agency. Filling in as sitter for Herman the terrible when the scheduled sitter gets sick is nc fun, but Eddie is a responsible boss—and his family's twelfth-birthday gifts of a business calendar, ledger, rubber stamp, and extension phone show that they take him seriously. The story reads smoothly enough, but it's unoriginal in outline, and not bright enough in its particulars to function as anything but a time filler for junior-achievement types. Read full book review >