Violet and her family are original and appealing, a lovely addition to any chapter-book collection of characters.

VIOLET MACKEREL'S BRILLIANT PLOT

From the Violet Mackerel series , Vol. 1

A collection of small things and a generous gesture win Violet Mackerel the Blue China Bird she’s admired for weeks at the Saturday-morning market.

While her mother and sister sell their crafts and her brother plays the violin, Violet has time to visit the other vendors—especially the seller of china birds—and to plot, imagining ways to earn the $10 she needs to buy her favorite. Thinking “outside the box” as her mother advises, she experiences a series of failures. But in the box of her mother’s knitting disasters she finds something she can transform into a desirable, sellable object. The gentle, present-tense narration reflects the thinking of an imaginative and quite determined 7-year-old, following the model of elders who envision goals and work toward them. She’s not always realistic about her own abilities. Her theory of the importance of small things mirrors the series of small moments that make the story. First published in Australia, where it was a Children’s Book of the Year Honour Book and followed by three sequels, this title has been slightly edited and re-illustrated for its U.S. edition. Allen’s grayscale drawings enliven almost every page. (Final art not seen.)

Violet and her family are original and appealing, a lovely addition to any chapter-book collection of characters. (Fiction. 5-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-3585-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

SNOW PLACE LIKE HOME

From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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