It is no small thing for a 7-year-old to cope with change. Branford offers chapter-book readers an appealing model.

VIOLET MACKEREL'S PERSONAL SPACE

From the Violet Mackerel series , Vol. 4

Leaving hurts, but Violet Mackerel finds something that helps.

The thoughtful protagonist of Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot (2012) first develops her Theory of Leaving Small Things Behind when her family leaves the beach house where they’ve spent a lovely holiday. Then her mother and her boyfriend, Vincent, announce their plans to marry and move to a larger place. Violet’s excited about the wedding but nervous about the move. Her older brother, Dylan, wanting none of it, relocates to a tent in the garden. The third-person, present-tense narrative convincingly sticks to Violet’s point of view as she and her family negotiate this tricky time. The gentle tone reflects the (nearly unbelievable) patience and understanding with which the adults deal with Dylan’s unhappiness and involve Violet and her sister, Nicola, in their plans. Fourth in a series of books now grown to six in New Zealand, this is similarly insightful about family dynamics. As always, in the U.S. illustrations, the “O” in Violet’s name on the cover and title page as well as the final grayscale illustrations inside (not seen) reflect small things from the story.

It is no small thing for a 7-year-old to cope with change. Branford offers chapter-book readers an appealing model. (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-3591-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Readers will enjoy this sequel from a plot perspective and will learn how to play-act a trial, though they may not engage...

THE LEMONADE CRIME

From the Lemonade War series , Vol. 2

This sequel to The Lemonade War (2007), picking up just a few days later, focuses on how the fourth graders take justice into their own hands after learning that the main suspect in the case of the missing lemonade-stand money now owns the latest in game-box technology.

Siblings Evan and Jessie (who skipped third grade because of her precocity) are sure Scott Spencer stole the $208 from Evan’s shorts and want revenge, especially as Scott’s new toy makes him the most popular kid in class, despite his personal shortcomings. Jessie’s solution is to orchestrate a full-blown trial by jury after school, while Evan prefers to challenge Scott in basketball. Neither channel proves satisfactory for the two protagonists (whose rational and emotional reactions are followed throughout the third-person narrative), though, ultimately, the matter is resolved. Set during the week of Yom Kippur, the story raises beginning questions of fairness, integrity, sin and atonement. Like John Grisham's Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer (2010), much of the book is taken up with introducing courtroom proceedings for a fourth-grade level of understanding. Chapter headings provide definitions  (“due diligence,” “circumstantial evidence,” etc.) and explanation cards/documents drawn by Jessie are interspersed.

Readers will enjoy this sequel from a plot perspective and will learn how to play-act a trial, though they may not engage with the characters enough to care about how the justice actually pans out. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-27967-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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Further proof that Bad Kitty can be good…especially in the eyes of her many fans. (Humor. 6-10)

BAD KITTY MEETS THE BABY

From the Bad Kitty (chapter book) series , Vol. 4

In Bad Kitty's return, she attempts to answer one critical question: “What the heck is that thing?”

In the beginning was Kitty. She was alone, and she liked it that way. Dark times arrived with the stinky, leaking, omnipresent Puppy; Kitty reconciled herself to that travesty. But after Kitty and Puppy spend a brief and ill-advised time in the guardianship of Uncle Murray, IT comes home with the humans. It plays, it stinks, it drools; Kitty is sure it’s a dog. When all her friends come over for a special round of Pussycat Olympics, they conclude IT is a New Kitty. (A Bad Kitty Screaming Temper Tantrum ensues). Will Bad Kitty have a change of heart once she learns the origins of the family’s new arrival? Bruel’s fourth long-form tale of Bad Kitty (Bad Kitty vs. Uncle Murray, 2010, etc.) offers his trademark spastic black-and-white illustrations in full-bleed and spots with plenty of baby and cat sounds in dialogue bubbles (translated into English where necessary). Uncle Murray’s Fun Facts return with occasional chapters on cat climbing and getting stuck in trees. There is plenty of slapstick, a few silly dream sequences and the obligatory gross bits. An appendix on cat training rounds out Bad Kitty’s Baby encounter.

Further proof that Bad Kitty can be good…especially in the eyes of her many fans. (Humor. 6-10)

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59643-597-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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