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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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


From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

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. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale.


From the Heartwood Hotel series , Vol. 1

An orphan mouse unexpectedly arrives at Heartwood Hotel, which she hopes will become the home she’s seeking.

Mona’s never had a home for long. After a storm forces her to flee her latest forest shelter, she discovers an enormous tree with a heart carved into its trunk. When Mona presses the heart, a door opens, and she enters the lobby of Heartwood Hotel, where small forest critters hibernate, eat, and celebrate in safety. The kindhearted badger proprietor, Mr. Heartwood, takes pity on homeless Mona, allowing her to stay for the fall to assist the maid, Tilly, a red squirrel. Grateful to be at Heartwood, Mona strives to prove herself despite Tilly’s unfriendly attitude. Mona’s clever approaches with a wounded songbird, an anxious skunk, and a wayward bear win Mr. Heartwood’s approval. But when Mona accidentally breaks a rule, Tilly convinces her she will be fired. As Mona secretly leaves Heartwood, she discovers marauding wolves planning to crash Heartwood’s Snow Festival and devises a daring plan to save the place she regards as home. Charming anthropomorphic characters, humorous mishaps, and outside threats add to the drama. Delicate pencil illustrations reinforce Heartwood’s cozy home theme. A sequel, The Greatest Gift, publishes simultaneously.

A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale. (Animal fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-3161-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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