Ultimately, Squishy’s numerous shenanigans make the book an enjoyable, if simple, outing for chapter-book readers. (Fiction....

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SQUISHY TAYLOR AND THE BONUS SISTERS

From the Squishy Taylor series

Originally published in Australia in 2016, Wild’s first story in the Squishy Taylor series makes its way to the United States.

Sita “Squishy” Taylor lives in a small apartment with a large family: her dad, stepmom, twin stepsisters Vee and Jessie, and the baby. This is a new arrangement, since her mom has moved overseas. One day, Squishy comes across a little kid hiding in the garage who goes by the name John Smith. Gullible Squishy believes John Smith’s tale: that he stole a motorbike and that the police are after him. Squishy is excited about having a secret, but John is soon discovered by Vee. In working together, Vee and Squishy quickly become friends, and Squishy comes to think of her stepfamily as a “bonus family” in truth. While the story itself is well-written and the fast-paced narrative keeps readers engrossed, the main issue in the story—Squishy’s loneliness and eventual acceptance with regard to her stepfamily—is sidelined. Also, although Squishy is the only brown character in the book (her mother is Indian), her biracial identity has little to do with the story. In fact, all the characters in the book read white regardless of how they have been depicted in Wood’s black-and-white illustrations, which appear every 10 pages or so. The paperback edition of the book includes several questions intended for classroom discussions.

Ultimately, Squishy’s numerous shenanigans make the book an enjoyable, if simple, outing for chapter-book readers. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5158-1972-1

Page Count: 129

Publisher: Picture Window Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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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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In all, it's an unsuccessful follow-up to Weeks' Pie (2011), but word-loving Melody is appealing, and her appended list of...

HONEY

Melody Bishop's peaceful life with her widower father is upset when the annoying 6-year-old next door comes home from the beauty parlor with some gossip.

The 10-year-old has already noticed her father's increased distraction and a new tendency to whistle, so when Teeny Nelson reports that "Henry's been bitten by the love bug," Melody is avid to know more. With her best friend, biracial Nick Woo, at her side, she goes to the Bee Hive beauty salon to investigate. What she discovers there rocks her world not once but twice, as salon owner Bee-Bee has information about Melody's mother, who died in childbirth and about whom her father never speaks. Weeks gets the small moments right: Melody's exasperation with Teeny and the way it turns to sympathy when the little girl's mother threatens a spanking; her affectionate resignation when her grandfather, who has emphysema, sneaks out to the garage for a smoke. And Melody's close relationship with her loving father is sweetly evoked. But other elements fail to cohere. Obvious misdirection leads Melody to a critical misunderstanding that never amounts to more than a plot contrivance, and the mystical visions of Bee-Bee's dog, Mo, who has an unknown connection to Melody, strain credulity.

In all, it's an unsuccessful follow-up to Weeks' Pie (2011), but word-loving Melody is appealing, and her appended list of nail-polish colors is somewhat amusing. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-46557-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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