Funny duck shenanigans don’t mitigate the concerns the text raises.

A foundling duck becomes an emotional-support animal and brings the whole fifth grade together.

Pouya and Shady’s good deed—reuniting some ducklings with their mama—finds one duckling accidentally returning home with the two boys. Shady’s mom almost makes him return the duckling to its mother, until she sees Shady murmuring and quacking softly to the little bird. Shady has severe anxiety and selective mutism; once his mother realizes the effect the duck has on Shady, she’s converted. The duck, Svenrietta, becomes an emotional-support duck and a “registered service animal” at school. (The multiple kids who share narration duty also share the common misunderstanding that an emotional-support bird has the same legal status as a service animal.) What follow are the sort of charming misadventures one might expect when a diaper-clad waterfowl attends class. Svenrietta makes Shady and Pouya popular for the first time. Wealthy, white Shady sticks up for all the other “underducks”: the ESL kids; the kids who are poor like Pouya, who’s an Iranian refugee in a two-mom family; DuShawn, who is gender-nonconforming. The empowering diversity themes are well-meaning but stand on a shaky underpinning. In addition to the propagation of common myths about domesticating wild animals, service animals, and refugees, there’s an overarching Christmas plot in a story where one of the primary narrators is from a Muslim family (though religion per se goes entirely unmentioned).

Funny duck shenanigans don’t mitigate the concerns the text raises. (author’s note) (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8075-6706-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020


From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.

A long-running series reaches its closing chapters.

Having, as Kline notes in her warm valedictory acknowledgements, taken 30 years to get through second and third grade, Harry Spooger is overdue to move on—but not just into fourth grade, it turns out, as his family is moving to another town as soon as the school year ends. The news leaves his best friend, narrator “Dougo,” devastated…particularly as Harry doesn’t seem all that fussed about it. With series fans in mind, the author takes Harry through a sort of last-day-of-school farewell tour. From his desk he pulls a burned hot dog and other items that featured in past episodes, says goodbye to Song Lee and other classmates, and even (for the first time ever) leads Doug and readers into his house and memento-strewn room for further reminiscing. Of course, Harry isn’t as blasé about the move as he pretends, and eyes aren’t exactly dry when he departs. But hardly is he out of sight before Doug is meeting Mohammad, a new neighbor from Syria who (along with further diversifying a cast that began as mostly white but has become increasingly multiethnic over the years) will also be starting fourth grade at summer’s end, and planning a written account of his “horrible” buddy’s exploits. Finished illustrations not seen.

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47963-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018


From the Zara's Rules series , Vol. 1

A charming contemporary story with a classic feel.

A 10 ¾-year-old girl weathers changes in her social circle—and her sense of self.

Dubbed “Queen of the Neighborhood” by beloved neighbor Mr. Chapman, who has sadly left Maryland for balmy Florida, Zara is apprehensive when a family with two kids moves into his house, potentially upsetting the delicate social balance. Readers familiar with Khan’s Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream books, set a few years after this series opener, will recognize the bustling Pakistani American Muslim household. Assertive, organized Zara and rambunctious 7-year-old Zayd live with their Mama and Baba; the siblings’ grandparents and uncle are integral parts of their daily lives. Zara and Zayd enjoy playing outside with their friends—Black sisters Jade and Gloria, White Alan, and Chinese American Melvin. Mr. Chapman always said that Zara knew how to “rule with grace and fairness,” but new arrivals Naomi and Michael, Jewish kids who are eager to engage socially, put this to the test. When Jamal Mamoo, Mama’s brother, brings over his Guinness World Records book, Zara decides that becoming a world-record holder is the boost her social status needs. Her humorous (and futile) attempts to make her mark ultimately lead her to being a more patient and understanding big sister and more flexible and supportive companion to friends old and new. Strong pacing, fluid prose, engaging hijinks, and heartwarming scenes of family life and outdoor play are complemented by expressive illustrations.

A charming contemporary story with a classic feel. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-9759-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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