Chagrined and astounded that unconventional Aunt Mattie is his fifth-grade substitute teacher for the remainder of the year, Simon, from No More Nice (1996), steadily develops as a character. His classmates are determined to maintain their power and reputation for pushing teachers to the limit, but Aunt Mattie profoundly changes their perspective and goals. Though the continuation from the first is smoothly done, this stands alone well. MacDonald uses a timely theme for children who typically feel unbalanced, at this age, by the realization that they are embarrassed in public by things that they are comfortable with at home. Though the message is slightly strong, it is not belabored: regardless of the apparent humiliation, children need to handle their fear of being ridiculed and confidently develop their beliefs. The plot captures immediate interest, which holds up throughout. Line drawings echo the light humor and reflect the text rather than providing additional insight. The humor is enhanced by the silly stereotyped characterizations of the one-dimensional, power-hungry vice principal and the unprincipled rival teacher. Their inane cruelty blinds them to Aunt Mattie’s and the children’s potential. Their unnecessary wickedness pushes the plot to its conclusion. Slight glimpses into the depth of various characters are seen through Simon, whose major focus is upon himself and his classmates. Leaving room for a welcome third story, this is a fast read for children who want something funny and light. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2001

ISBN: 0-374-35529-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Melanie Kroupa/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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Robbie's somewhat overstated aim is to create a new image for himself by taking steps like avoiding his mother's company on the way to the bus stop each morning, trading in his superhero underwear for plain white, and getting jeans. If his goals seem small and unassuming, so is Robbie; and his solutions—in one instance, simply asking his mother for what he wants instead of expecting her to mind-read—are ingenuously on target. But though Duffey is well tuned in to third-grade cool, she includes a stereotypical bully, held back a year and ready to tangle with anyone who looks at him the wrong way; worse, references to coolness and what kind of year Robbie is having are annoyingly repetitious. Nevertheless, modest aspirations mean modest rewards: readers Robbie's age will be glad to find their own concerns on nearly every page. Illustrations not seen. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-670-84798-4

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1993

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


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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