Books by Jessica Harper

I BARFED ON MRS. KENLY by Jessica Harper
CHILDREN'S
Released: Jan. 1, 2010

Likable Cleo has gotten herself into another fix, and this time she's the victim of her own unpredictable stomach. Seems she can't handle eating "tons of pancakes" and going on a car trip in the same morning. And sweet, fur-coat-clad Mrs. Kenly receives the full force of that bad combo. Cleo is a good storyteller, and her honest and funny first-person account of her little disaster builds slowly and dramatically, creating tension and drama even though the title tells the reader what is going to happen. Barfing will occur…but when and where? Cleo's emotions are clear and recognizable. "I was as embarrassed as if I was sitting there naked with a pumpkin on my head." Cleo soldiers on and, with Mrs. Kenly's encouragement, moves past her embarrassment with an impressive display of diving. New readers and fans of Judy Moody and Ramona Quimby will find a new heroine to appreciate in the irrepressible Cleo. (Fiction. 6-9)Read full book review >
UH-OH, CLEO by Jessica Harper
CHILDREN'S
Released: Jan. 1, 2009

Cleo Small tells the hilarious story (based on the author's real life) of her five siblings, two parents and a mountain hike on Mount Baldy. Readers with siblings will smile and nod with recognition as the large Small family negotiates the details of their family vacation. When Cleo and the other two older kids leave to have a few days alone with their parents in a mountain cabin, Cleo details the all-too-familiar car-trip arguments which culminate in bold Dad-words, "Okay, knock. It. Off.<\b>" The hike begins with the family swimming in a stream in their underpants and ends with the spare sets of underpants finding a new purpose—warming heads. Berkeley's occasional black-and-white illustrations add to the humor—especially the two underwear scenes. Generous white space and a large typeface make this an inviting read for the new reader; playful changes in font add to the zest of Cleo's narration. At the end, Cleo decides to turn this episode into fodder for in-class writing, and young writers will want to mine their family memories for stories of their own. (Fiction. 6-8)Read full book review >
UH-OH, CLEO by Jessica Harper
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2008

If you want to get an eight-year-old to tell a story, ask him if he has ever been to the emergency room or had an accident. Then settle back and listen to the whole story, from the very beginning. That's how Cleo tells the gory story of Stitches Saturday. It begins way before the main event, but that only adds to the fun of anticipation. Cleo and her twin, Jack, are part of a family of eight having a regular old Saturday filled with toys and games and little songs from Mom. Things just go better when Mom is humming a little tune and making up the words, even if the words are about stitches. Though the story takes place in modern Winnetka, it has a timeless feel to it. With pen-and-ink illustrations on each spread, lots of white space around the generous font and a universal story including blood and a trip to the ER and comforting parents, this will appeal to new chapter-book readers. Short, sweet and easy-to-read. A sure hit. (Fiction. 5-8)Read full book review >
A PLACE CALLED KINDERGARTEN by Jessica Harper
ANIMALS
Released: July 1, 2006

A perennial topic gets a new perspective in Harper's latest. The animals in the barn are all aflutter when Tommy fails to come for his morning visit. When the Dog tells them Tommy has gone to a place called Kindergarten, their worried questions reflect the fears of all those left behind at the start of school. "Where is Kindergarten? What does it look like? What will happen to Tommy there? Will he ever come back?" Their actions that day will also be familiar to younger siblings—and anxious Moms—watching out the window, pacing and listening for that special footstep. Reassurance comes that afternoon with Tommy's visit. As he teaches them what he has learned, the animals see that Kindergarten is a great place—for them, too. There is a country feel to the muted tones of Karas's illustrations. The animals' facial expressions and body language will evoke empathy in listeners, while their translated questions will produce laughter. A must for those awaiting the return of their own kindergartener. (Picture book. 3-8)Read full book review >
FOUR BOYS NAMED JORDAN by Jessica Harper
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 1, 2004

What price faddish baby-naming? Readers of every generation will be nodding in recognition at this third-grader's rhymed plaint that there are not one, not two, not three, but four lads named Jordan in her class: "Say, ‘Jordan pass the scissors,' and you'll end up with four pairs. / Say, ‘Jordan, there's a test today.' Four voices say, ‘Who cares?' " Emphasizing emotional tone over action, King creates colorful, canted school scenes dominated by wide, small-featured faces exhibiting a range of expressions. As a final zinger, the frizzy-haired narrator's fear of a "Jordan nation" takes a turn toward realization when a new child comes in: "Her name? You'll never guess." Required reading for prospective parents. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 1, 2004

With wry good humor, Lizzy recounts the activities of her day to her mother. Although an unusual event occurs at the core of Lizzy's day—her best friend moves away—Lizzy's trials and tribulations will be comically familiar to readers. Waking up late, wearing unmatched socks, waiting in the rain for the school bus, dealing with the class clown, spelling tests, and the like are the minutiae that make up a grade-schooler's life. Harper neatly captures the exasperation and exaggerated nuances of a precocious young girl's speech. With Lizzy's tone on target, Harper also keeps the tale perking along nicely with rhyming couplets setting a lively pace. Rather than extraordinary, Lizzy's tale is comfortingly familiar, reminding readers that everyone has their ups and downs. DuPont's illustrations, rendered in an array of bright hues, energetically mirror the tenor of the tale, capturing readers' attention. Her ever-expressive drawings of Lizzy artfully convey her spunk and charm. Harper's droll tale is the perfect antidote to school-day blues and a great follow-up to Lizzie's Do's and Don'ts (2002). (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
I LIKE WHERE I AM by Jessica Harper
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2004

Lyrical text and cartoonish illustrations give life to an otherwise prosaic moving-is-not-so-bad tale. A little boy has "Trouble" on moving day because he likes where he is. "And my best friend lives around the block. / Why move to a place called Little Rock / Anyway?" he choruses. Humorous images provide counterpoint to the boy's sadness: baby sister pouring milk on her head; the boy guarding his room with a toy light saber while wearing flippers and cowboy hat; goateed moving men struggling with a box full of rocks, including shiny rocks, skipping rocks, and big rocks. Of course, the new house isn't so bad, after all. In Little Rock, the boy gets his own kitten and a new (for some reason nearly identical) best friend. Some nice details, such as the car's different license plate at the new house, will help explain moving to a child. Those who buy this to calm recalcitrant young movers should take the time to read the rollicking, rhythmic, fun verse aloud. (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
LIZZY’S DO’S AND DON’TS by Jessica Harper
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2002

With the same panache of their previous collaborations (Nora's Room, 2001, etc.), the Harper sisters create a spunky tale about the woes and challenges of growing up. Harper tackles a subject familiar to every household engaged in child-rearing—the frequent occurrence of the word "don't." A child lists the deluge of restrictions she encounters in the course of daily life. From prohibitions about climbing bee-infested trees to sequestering reptiles in footwear, young Lizzy has had it with the that dreadful "don't." In retaliation, she provides her mother with her own list of "don'ts." Lizzy's proclamation is a blend of poignant and humorous dictums, including a plea to stay off the telephone a little more and a ban on a dreaded yellow dress. "Don't always say my hair's a mess. / Don't say no when you could say yes. / Don't, don't, don't!" Exhausted by their diatribe, the pair comes up with a list of things they wish each other would do. With keen insight and a comic touch, Harper spearheads the elemental truth of parenting; amid the squabbles and strife is the steadfast love a parent and child share. DuPont's bold illustrations perfectly capture the energy of the tale. A blend of comic-strip layouts alternated with full-page spreads reflects the rhythms of the tale. With wry observations couched in perky rhymes and a lively tempo, Harper's light-hearted tale delivers a sincere reminder to parents and children to treasure each other. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
NORA’S ROOM by Jessica Harper
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 30, 2001

Sisters Harper and duPont team up once again (I'm Not Going to Chase the Cat Today!, 2000) to create a stridently silly tale to tickle funnybones. A cacophonous ruckus emanating from a young girl's room leads her mother to ponder what exactly is going on behind that closed door. Relayed in jaunty rhymes, parent, canine, and even the infant twins provide a hilarious commentary on the root cause of all that uproar. The absurdities escalate, as each new suggestion is more outrageous than the last: dancing bears, hopping hippos, and playful gorillas are all offered up as plausible sources. "Sounds like a rodeo right upstairs. Or a bunch of rhinos playing musical chairs!" However, when Nora's mother, unable to stand the suspense any longer, asks her what's going on, a demure Nora offers that classic response: "Oh, nothing." And the picture shows all of those possible culprits in their stuffed forms. The format of this romp is more akin to a comic strip than a traditional picture book, with the text contained within thought bubbles above various characters' heads. DuPont's wacky illustrations suit the offbeat tale and free-spirited Nora just fine; amidst pictures of two-stepping elephants and waltzing behemoths, a gleeful Nora can be discovered cutting loose. Loads of fun to read aloud—the text and art just beg for exaggerated theatrics on the reader's part: this is one rollicking ride. (Picture book. 3-8) Read full book review >
I’M NOT GOING TO CHASE THE CAT TODAY! by Jessica Harper
ANIMALS
Released: May 31, 2000

The Harper sisters join forces to illustrate that there is nothing wrong with being you, but sometimes that includes trying something unique. In this easy-going tale, songstress Jessica Harper (I Forgot My Shoes, 1999) and newcomer duPont show us how entertaining it can be to throw off the confines of habit. When the dog wakes up from his nap, he decides, "I don't want to chase the cat today!" He proceeds to try lots of different activities that are out of character, setting off a chain reaction. If the dog isn't chasing the cat, then the cat doesn't have to chase the mouse, and it follows that the mouse really isn't required to run headlong after the lady. So instead of the oft-repeated cycle of chase and be chased, this household has a party! With only a few words per page, this whimsical little book proves that spontaneity is liberating. Wacky and lively illustrations of stylishly dressed animals and amusing little details add zest to a story of a simple yet easily forgotten truth. (Picture book. 3-8) Read full book review >
I FORGOT MY SHOES by Jessica Harper
Released: Sept. 1, 1999

When everyone around her becomes afflicted with memory lapses, a young girl's ordinary day becomes an adventure. From relatively minor forgetting—an overcoat, a backpack—the rash of absentmindedness escalates to grandiose proportions as the bus driver forgets to take the children to school and the teacher forgets the day of the week. The girl, who keeps reminding readers that she has forgotten to put on her shoes, describes the day in a deadpan tone; the juxtaposition of absurd instances of forgetfulness and her calm retelling provides all the humor in this outlandish tale. Released from the bondage of the daily routine, Harper's characters are free to explore the unbeaten path: the soccer team, lacking their ball, plays hide-and-seek while the puppy, missing his meal, samples the sofa. Osborn's sophisticated illustrations, with off-kilter perspectives, are deeply hued and color- laden, fairly leaping off the page. This offbeat book will stir readers' imaginations. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >