For readers who’ve exhausted the Wimpy Kid series, an acceptable follow-up.

HENRY HUBBLE'S BOOK OF TROUBLES

Middle schooler Henry Harrison Hubble keeps an occasional “pretty personal” journal, but when it’s stolen and pages are posted on social media, he has to take drastic action.

Judging by the contents of his backpack (one of his troubles), Henry is in the eighth grade in school, but he’s years behind in social skills and sense of humor. Fascinated by the fact that he was named after the ninth U.S. president, he’s particularly pleased with his family’s special connection: They own a (now dried-up and bottled) turd from Harrison’s dog. Henry makes a variety of unwise choices that lead to troubles on a whale-watching field trip, at Halloween, in the lunchroom and in science class. Forging his mother’s name on a discipline slip leads to a grounding and actually seeing the historic turd, but he’s eventually released for other troubles: a Valentine’s Day dance and the loss of his journal. Like many other titles aimed at the middle-grade reader, this purports to be the diary of a budding cartoonist. Henry’s first-person narrative is accompanied by black-and-white drawings. He also includes some (convincingly child-written) poems. The genuine issue in Henry’s story is lost in the bathroom humor, which fourth graders will probably love.

For readers who’ve exhausted the Wimpy Kid series, an acceptable follow-up. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-74439-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Magical animals become a kooky, sweet metaphor for growing up.

CATALYST

She’s just the adorablest, teeniest of stray kittens—suddenly grown as big as a hippopotamus.

Zoe’s not supposed to bring stray animals home anymore, ever since the skunk incident. Who can resist the world’s smallest kitten, though? And it’s Zoe’s 12th birthday, and she’s been unhappy at how tall she’s grown, and she’s been crushed over her older brother’s impending departure for college; eventually, her concerned parents cave. But after Pipsqueak’s been with Zoe for just a couple of days, she’s suddenly a full-grown cat. Then she’s the size of a dog, then a lion, and after less than a week, a hippo. If the government finds out about the enormous talking feline (for Pipsqueak can speak, now, and read as well), will they take her away to Area 51? Zoe and her best friend, Harrison, begin a quest: They’ll take Pipsqueak to Zoe’s wacky New Age aunt, who’ll maybe have a solution for them. Along the way their fellowship swells with magical animals, an offbeat crew composed of a six-tailed green dog and a multicolored flying mouse. The far-fetched setup and ensuing adventure convey themes that will resonate with the audience; Pipsqueak’s as unhappy with her out-of-control body and circumstances as Zoe, and the quest may lead them to new comfort with themselves. Zoe is depicted as white on the cover, and Harrison is of South Asian descent.

Magical animals become a kooky, sweet metaphor for growing up. (Fantasy. 8-11)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-06502-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Contrived at some points, polemic at others, but a stout defense of the right to read.

BAN THIS BOOK

A shy fourth-grader leads the revolt when censors decimate her North Carolina school’s library.

In a tale that is dominated but not overwhelmed by its agenda, Gratz takes Amy Anne, a young black bibliophile, from the devastating discovery that her beloved From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler has been removed from the library at the behest of Mrs. Spencer, a despised classmate’s mom, to a qualified defense of intellectual freedom at a school board meeting: “Nobody has the right to tell you what books you can and can’t read except your parents.” Meanwhile, as more books vanish, Amy Anne sets up a secret lending library of banned titles in her locker—a ploy that eventually gets her briefly suspended by the same unsympathetic principal who fires the school’s doctorate-holding white librarian for defiantly inviting Dav Pilkey in for an author visit. Characters frequently serve as mouthpieces for either side, sometimes deadly serious and other times tongue-in-cheek (“I don’t know about you guys, but ever since I read Wait Till Helen Comes, I’ve been thinking about worshipping Satan”). Indeed, Amy Anne’s narrative is positively laced with real titles that have been banned or challenged and further enticing teasers for them.

Contrived at some points, polemic at others, but a stout defense of the right to read. (discussion guide) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7653-8556-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Starscape/Tom Doherty

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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