Similar in subject to the author’s Shanghai Messenger (2005) but different in approach, this is just right for middle-grade...

THE YEAR OF THE FORTUNE COOKIE

From the Anna Wang series , Vol. 3

A two-week trip to China allows sixth-grader Anna Wang to reflect on her Asian-American identity.

At the end of The Year of the Baby (2013), Anna’s teacher, Ms. Sylvester, invited Anna to come with her to Beijing to help her take home an adopted Chinese baby. In this third title in the series, Anna does just that, leaving for an unfamiliar country almost before she’s adjusted to middle school. Anna’s journey provides an opportunity to consider the question “Who am I,” raised in her social studies class. Very aware of differences of skin and hair color, she appreciates that in China she doesn’t stand out. It’s a strain to speak a language she doesn’t know well, and she misses her family. Her narration clearly conveys the experience of foreign travel from a sixth-grade point of view; it’s light on famous sights and heavy on personal encounters. A friendly hotel waitress invites Anna to her family’s one-room home. She even gets to visit the Lucky Family Orphanage where her own sister once lived, bringing the money she and new middle school friends raised with a fortune-cookie bake sale and baby caps they knitted.

Similar in subject to the author’s Shanghai Messenger (2005) but different in approach, this is just right for middle-grade Anna fans ready for new experiences . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10519-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.

HORRIBLE HARRY SAYS GOODBYE

From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A long-running series reaches its closing chapters.

Having, as Kline notes in her warm valedictory acknowledgements, taken 30 years to get through second and third grade, Harry Spooger is overdue to move on—but not just into fourth grade, it turns out, as his family is moving to another town as soon as the school year ends. The news leaves his best friend, narrator “Dougo,” devastated…particularly as Harry doesn’t seem all that fussed about it. With series fans in mind, the author takes Harry through a sort of last-day-of-school farewell tour. From his desk he pulls a burned hot dog and other items that featured in past episodes, says goodbye to Song Lee and other classmates, and even (for the first time ever) leads Doug and readers into his house and memento-strewn room for further reminiscing. Of course, Harry isn’t as blasé about the move as he pretends, and eyes aren’t exactly dry when he departs. But hardly is he out of sight before Doug is meeting Mohammad, a new neighbor from Syria who (along with further diversifying a cast that began as mostly white but has become increasingly multiethnic over the years) will also be starting fourth grade at summer’s end, and planning a written account of his “horrible” buddy’s exploits. Finished illustrations not seen.

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47963-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is...

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CRENSHAW

Applegate tackles homelessness in her first novel since 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan.

Hunger is a constant for soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson and his family, and the accompanying dizziness may be why his imaginary friend is back. A giant cat named Crenshaw first appeared after Jackson finished first grade, when his parents moved the family into their minivan for several months. Now they’re facing eviction again, and Jackson’s afraid that he won’t be going to school next year with his friend Marisol. When Crenshaw shows up on a surfboard, Jackson, an aspiring scientist who likes facts, wonders whether Crenshaw is real or a figment of his imagination. Jackson’s first-person narrative moves from the present day, when he wishes that his parents understood that he’s old enough to hear the truth about the family’s finances, to the first time they were homeless and back to the present. The structure allows readers access to the slow buildup of Jackson’s panic and his need for a friend and stability in his life. Crenshaw tells Jackson that “Imaginary friends don’t come of their own volition. We are invited. We stay as long as we’re needed.” The cat’s voice, with its adult tone, is the conduit for the novel’s lessons: “You need to tell the truth, my friend….To the person who matters most of all.”

Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is nevertheless a somberly affecting one . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04323-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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