Having made it her mission to impart life information to middle-graders, Cameron brings Julian’s friend Gloria (Gloria’s Way, 2000) to the forefront once again for a series of edifying encounters. After the woman in line behind her in the store, who turns out to be former astronaut Dr. Grace Street, fills her head with starry visions and lectures her on negative thinking, Gloria heads to fourth grade. There bully—er, Billy Watkins gets her in trouble, and her burned-out teacher, Priscilla “Dragon of Doom” Yardley, decides that she’s a liar for claiming to have met an astronaut. Ultimately, Gloria gets to see Dr. Street visit the class, to deliver another inspirational lecture, and to set Mrs. Yardley straight, then screws up her courage to climb Old Rocket, the biggest pine tree in the park, to reflect on big things, little things, and mastering fear. Toft’s penciled portraits capture Gloria’s pigtailed likability nicely; Cameron’s crisply direct advice, all of which is right on, ranges from practical items like never looking directly at the sun, to profound character-building insights—and the learning goes on in an author’s note citing Internet resources about space exploration. “Live and Learn” is the unstated theme, and by the end, readers will have a sense of what makes even Mrs. Yardley and Billy tick. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 21, 2002

ISBN: 0-374-32675-4

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2002

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An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.


From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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Nolen and Nelson offer a smaller, but no less gifted counterpart to Big Jabe (2000) in this new tall tale. Shortly after being born one stormy night, Rose thanks her parents, picks a name, and gathers lightning into a ball—all of which is only a harbinger of feats to come. Decked out in full cowboy gear and oozing self-confidence from every pore, Rose cuts a diminutive, but heroic figure in Nelson’s big, broad Western scenes. Though she carries a twisted iron rod as dark as her skin and ropes clouds with fencing wire, Rose overcomes her greatest challenge—a pair of rampaging twisters—not with strength, but with a lullaby her parents sang. After turning tornadoes into much-needed rain clouds, Rose rides away, “that mighty, mighty song pressing on the bull’s-eye that was set at the center of her heart.” Throughout, she shows a reflective bent that gives her more dimension than most tall-tale heroes: a doff of the Stetson to her and her creators. (author’s note) (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-15-216472-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Silver Whistle/Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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