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From the Squishy Taylor series

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

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. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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From the Rafi and Rosi series

A welcome, well-researched reflection of cultural pride in the early-reader landscape.

The fourth installment in Delacre’s early-reader series centers on the rich musical traditions of Puerto Rico, once again featuring sibling tree frogs Rafi and Rosi Coquí.

Readers learn along with Rafi and Rosi as they explore bomba, plena, and salsa in three chapters. A glossary at the beginning sets readers up well to understand the Spanish vocabulary, including accurate phoneticization for non-Spanish speakers. The stories focus on Rafi and Rosi’s relationship within a musical context. For example, in one chapter Rafi finds out that he attracts a larger audience playing his homemade güiro with Rosi’s help even though he initially excluded her: “Big brothers only.” Even when he makes mistakes, as the older brother, Rafi consoles Rosi when she is embarrassed or angry at him. In each instance, their shared joy for music and dance ultimately shines through any upsets—a valuable reflection of unity. Informational backmatter and author’s sources are extensive. Undoubtedly these will help teachers, librarians, and parents to develop Puerto Rican cultural programs, curriculum, or home activities to extend young readers’ learning. The inclusion of instructions to make one’s own homemade güiro is a thoughtful addition. The Spanish translation, also by Delacre and published simultaneously, will require a more advanced reader than the English one to recognize and comprehend contractions (“pa’bajo-pa-pa’rriba”) and relatively sophisticated vocabulary.

A welcome, well-researched reflection of cultural pride in the early-reader landscape. (Early reader. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-89239-429-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Children's Book Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.

Eleven-year-old Maria Russo helps her charlatan mother hoodwink customers, but Maria has a spirited secret.

Maria’s mother, the psychic Madame Destine, cons widows out of their valuables with the assistance of their apartment building’s super, Mr. Fox. Madame Destine home-schools Maria, and because Destine is afraid of unwanted attention, she forbids Maria from talking to others. Maria is allowed to go to the library, where new librarian Ms. Madigan takes an interest in Maria that may cause her trouble. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Maria’s new upstairs neighbor, would like to be friends. All this interaction makes it hard for Maria to keep her secret: that she is visited by Edward, a spirit who tells her the actual secrets of Madame Destine’s clients via spirit writing. When Edward urges Maria to help Mrs. Fisher, Madame Destine’s most recent mark, Maria must overcome her shyness and her fear of her mother—helping Mrs. Fisher may be the key to the mysterious past Maria uncovers and a brighter future. Alas, picture-book–creator Ford’s middle-grade debut is a muddled, melodramatic mystery with something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel: In addition to the premise, there’s a tragically dead father, a mysterious family tree, and the Beat poets. Sluggish pacing; stilted, unrealistic dialogue; cartoonishly stock characters; and unattractive, flat illustrations make this one to miss. Maria and Sebastian are both depicted with brown skin, hers lighter than his; the other principals appear to be white.

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit. (author’s note) (Paranormal mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20567-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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