A standout story with a strong heroine and an authentic voice.

READ REVIEW

CLIP-CLOP CHRONICLES

STORIES OF A GIRL AND HER HORSE ADVENTURES

A young girl doesn’t let setbacks keep her from following her passion for competitive horseback riding in this debut middle-grade novel.

Twelve-year-old Roz Stone dreams of someday making history by being the first African-American rider to win the International Federation for Equestrian Sports competition, which she calls the “Superbowl” of horseback riding. But first, she has to figure out a way to continue to pay for her riding lessons and prepare for a competition after losing her lawn-work clients thanks to a damaged riding mower. In this lively, first-person narrative, Roz’s challenges also include a wealthy, mean girl named Zoe (who’s a good rider but a bully); an injured ankle; and family members who feel that horseback riding isn’t an appropriate sport for African-Americans (“Nearly all of my cousins thought I was crazy,” the young girl says. “They told me that Black people didn’t ride horses”). Roz is undeterred, though, and her twin sister, Estelle, and her wise grandmother have her back. And although Roz is the only rider of color at her rural community’s riding school, she has a good friend and a mentor there for support and the historical success stories of African-American jockeys, polo players, and dressage and jumping champions for inspiration. Witherspoon-Cassanova has created a cast of believable characters, led by the spirited and thoughtful Roz, in a realistic world founded on the importance of family, faith, and strength of character. She also draws on her own firsthand riding experiences and her involvement with an equine therapy program. Roz’s enthusiasm is contagious, her ups and downs are relatable, and the lessons she learns are delivered without preachiness and feel organic to the story. The story also deftly keeps readers guessing about how it will all end. The only flaw in this otherwise sterling debut is a handful of distracting typos (such as “So I Mark was my person” and “I willing broke my promise”). Overall, though, this novel will resonate not only with horse-loving tweens, but with any young readers who are determined to march to their own drummers.

A standout story with a strong heroine and an authentic voice.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9986813-0-6

Page Count: 244

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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In contrast to the carbs and desserts pictured, though sweet, this is unlikely to stick with readers.

BAGEL IN LOVE

A romance for carb (and pun!) lovers who dance to their own drummers and don’t give up on their dreams.

Bagel is a guy who loves to dance; when he’s tapping and twirling, he doesn’t feel plain. The problem is, he can’t find a partner for the Cherry Jubilee Dance Contest. Poppy says his steps are half-baked. Pretzel, “who was at the spa getting a salt rub…told him his moves didn’t cut the mustard.” He strikes out in Sweet City, too, with Croissant, Doughnut, and Cake. But just when he’s given up, he hears the music from the contest and can’t help moving his feet. And an echoing tap comes back to him. Could it be a partner at last? Yep, and she just happens to smell sweet and have frosting piled high. Bagel and Cupcake crush the contest, but winning the trophy? That “was just icing on the cake,” as the final sentence reads, the two standing proudly with a blue ribbon and trophy, hearts filling the space above and between them. Dardik’s digital illustrations are pastel confections. Sometimes just the characters’ heads are the treats, and other times the whole body is the foodstuff, with tiny arms and legs added on. Even the buildings are like something from “Hansel and Gretel.” However, this pun-filled narrative is just one of many of its ilk, good for a few yuks but without much staying power.

In contrast to the carbs and desserts pictured, though sweet, this is unlikely to stick with readers. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2239-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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A treat to be savored—and a lesson learned—any time of year.

LOVE MONSTER AND THE LAST CHOCOLATE

From the Love Monster series

The surprised recipient of a box of chocolates agonizes over whether to eat the whole box himself or share with his friends.

Love Monster is a chocoholic, so when he discovers the box on his doorstep, his mouth waters just thinking about what might be inside; his favorite’s a double chocolate strawberry swirl. The brief thought that he should share these treats with his friends is easily rationalized away. Maybe there won’t be enough for everyone, perhaps someone will eat his favorite, or, even worse, leave him with his least favorite: the coffee one! Bright’s pacing and tone are on target throughout, her words conveying to readers exactly what the monster is thinking and feeling: “So he went into his house. And so did the box of chocolates…without a whisper of a word to anyone.” This is followed by a “queasy-squeezy” feeling akin to guilt and then by a full-tilt run to his friends, chocolates in hand, and a breathless, stream-of-consciousness confession, only to be brought up short by what’s actually in the box. And the moral is just right: “You see, sometimes it’s when you stop to think of others…that you start to find out just how much they think of you.” Monster’s wide eyes and toothy mouth convey his emotions wonderfully, and the simple backgrounds keep the focus on his struggle.

A treat to be savored—and a lesson learned—any time of year. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-00-754030-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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