The ebullience of an irrepressible female protagonist is occasionally threatened by gender-typing in this otherwise...

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THE BECKET LIST

From the Blackberry Farm series , Vol. 1

A (nearly) 10-year-old girl adjusts to country living after moving with her family from the city.

City child Rebecca renames herself Becket when she moves with her family to the country, where her veterinarian parents take over the vet clinic near the farm where her father grew up. Becket is noisy, confident, and full of life, narrating in an enthusiastic first person, present tense. She announces “Beautiful Alerts” when she sees beauty—a sunset, a thunderstorm, Gran—and says something when she sees something, often to amusing effect (“Stranger Danger!” she warns her mother at the country train station, when a man asks the time). In fact, Becket is a regular laundry list of confidently delivered safety sayings, and it’s just one of her many original and sparkling traits. What doesn’t sparkle, however, is the story’s subtle undercurrent of admonition directed at Becket’s boisterousness and confidence. “A little lower,” the camp counselor tells her. “Lower the volume,” her father says. These messages, underscoring the societal notion that girls should be quiet and self-effacing, are not delivered to boy characters and are, thankfully, ignored by Becket. Otherwise, the storyline is warm and amusing as Becket and her two siblings navigate their new life on a farm. A brown-skinned family from Peru on a nearby alpaca farm adds some diversity, as do the black-presenting friends who visit the Branches from the city; the Branches themselves are white. Pham’s energetic spot art enhances Griffin’s characterizations.

The ebullience of an irrepressible female protagonist is occasionally threatened by gender-typing in this otherwise entertaining story. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61620-790-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE

Ryan Hart is navigating the fourth grade and all its challenges with determination.

Her mom named her Ryan because it means “king,” and she wanted Ryan to feel powerful every time she heard her name; Ryan knows it means she is a leader. So when changes occur or disaster strikes, budding chef Ryan does her best to find the positive and “make sunshine.” When her dad is laid off from the post office, the family must make adjustments that include moving into a smaller house, selling their car, and changing how they shop for groceries. But Ryan gets to stay at Vernon Elementary, and her mom still finds a way to get her the ingredients she needs to practice new recipes. Her older brother, Ray, can be bossy, but he finds little ways to support her, especially when she is down—as does the whole family. Each episodic chapter confronts Ryan with a situation; intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching, they should be familiar and accessible to readers, as when Ryan fumbles her Easter speech despite careful practice. Ryan, her family, and friends are black, and Watson continues to bring visibility to both Portland, Oregon, generally and its black community specifically, making another wonderful contribution that allows black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love.

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0056-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Readers will enjoy this sequel from a plot perspective and will learn how to play-act a trial, though they may not engage...

THE LEMONADE CRIME

From the Lemonade War series , Vol. 2

This sequel to The Lemonade War (2007), picking up just a few days later, focuses on how the fourth graders take justice into their own hands after learning that the main suspect in the case of the missing lemonade-stand money now owns the latest in game-box technology.

Siblings Evan and Jessie (who skipped third grade because of her precocity) are sure Scott Spencer stole the $208 from Evan’s shorts and want revenge, especially as Scott’s new toy makes him the most popular kid in class, despite his personal shortcomings. Jessie’s solution is to orchestrate a full-blown trial by jury after school, while Evan prefers to challenge Scott in basketball. Neither channel proves satisfactory for the two protagonists (whose rational and emotional reactions are followed throughout the third-person narrative), though, ultimately, the matter is resolved. Set during the week of Yom Kippur, the story raises beginning questions of fairness, integrity, sin and atonement. Like John Grisham's Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer (2010), much of the book is taken up with introducing courtroom proceedings for a fourth-grade level of understanding. Chapter headings provide definitions  (“due diligence,” “circumstantial evidence,” etc.) and explanation cards/documents drawn by Jessie are interspersed.

Readers will enjoy this sequel from a plot perspective and will learn how to play-act a trial, though they may not engage with the characters enough to care about how the justice actually pans out. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-27967-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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