ANT PLAYS BEAR

An enchanting companion to My Brother Ant (1996). Little brother Anthony, known as Ant, wants his big brother—the narrator—to be a bear. The narrator plays the part so well that Ant becomes a little worried, and decides to end the game. In the second story, Ant wants to be a dog when his brother's new friend comes to visit, but becomes a boy when he finds out that the friend is capable of playing mean tricks on dogs. Third, Ant wants an explanation for the tap-tap-tapping on the bedroom window. Best of all, though, is the last story, in which Ant discovers what he wants to be when he grows up. In very short chapters, the love and exasperation common between siblings and the sweet thrill of everyday life are laid out for beginning readers who are sure to be delighted. The language is perfectly transparent, plain but full of feeling, and the illustrations, for all their artful simplicity, glow with universal appeal. Byars and Simont prove that within the closest of strictures—the easy-to-read format—brilliance can be achieved. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: July 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-670-86776-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for...

DOG DAYS

From the Carver Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A gentle voice and familiar pitfalls characterize this tale of a boy navigating the risky road to responsibility. 

Gavin is new to his neighborhood and Carver Elementary. He likes his new friend, Richard, and has a typically contentious relationship with his older sister, Danielle. When Gavin’s desire to impress Richard sets off a disastrous chain of events, the boy struggles to evade responsibility for his actions. “After all, it isn’t his fault that Danielle’s snow globe got broken. Sure, he shouldn’t have been in her room—but then, she shouldn’t be keeping candy in her room to tempt him. Anybody would be tempted. Anybody!” opines Gavin once he learns the punishment for his crime. While Gavin has a charming Everyboy quality, and his aversion to Aunt Myrtle’s yapping little dog rings true, little about Gavin distinguishes him from other trouble-prone protagonists. He is, regrettably, forgettable. Coretta Scott King Honor winner English (Francie, 1999) is a teacher whose storytelling usually benefits from her day job. Unfortunately, the pizzazz of classroom chaos is largely absent from this series opener.

This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for subsequent volumes. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-97044-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

INFINITE COUNTRY

A 15-year-old girl in Colombia, doing time in a remote detention center, orchestrates a jail break and tries to get home.

"People say drugs and alcohol are the greatest and most persuasive narcotics—the elements most likely to ruin a life. They're wrong. It's love." As the U.S. recovers from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from the misery of separations on the border, from both the idea and the reality of a wall around the United States, Engel's vital story of a divided Colombian family is a book we need to read. Weaving Andean myth and natural symbolism into her narrative—condors signify mating for life, jaguars revenge; the embattled Colombians are "a singed species of birds without feathers who can still fly"; children born in one country and raised in another are "repotted flowers, creatures forced to live in the wrong habitat"—she follows Talia, the youngest child, on a complex journey. Having committed a violent crime not long before she was scheduled to leave her father in Bogotá to join her mother and siblings in New Jersey, she winds up in a horrible Catholic juvie from which she must escape in order to make her plane. Hence the book's wonderful first sentence: "It was her idea to tie up the nun." Talia's cross-country journey is interwoven with the story of her parents' early romance, their migration to the United States, her father's deportation, her grandmother's death, the struggle to reunite. In the latter third of the book, surprising narrative shifts are made to include the voices of Talia's siblings, raised in the U.S. This provides interesting new perspectives, but it is a little awkward to break the fourth wall so late in the book. Attention, TV and movie people: This story is made for the screen.

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

Pub Date: today

ISBN: 978-1-982159-46-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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THOSE SHOES

The hottest fad can also be the most expensive and out of reach for children in limited financial circumstances. Jeremy, living with his Grandma, dreams of wearing the latest cool black high-tops with two white stripes. But as Grandma points out, “There’s no room for ‘want’ around here—just ‘need’ ” and what Jeremy needs and gets is a new pair of winter boots. Jeremy’s quest for new sneakers takes on more urgency when his old pair fall apart, and the only choice is the Velcro baby-blue set meant for little kids found in the school’s donation box by the guidance counselor. Even Grandma understands and together they search several thrift shops and actually find the coveted black high-tops, but they’re too small. Buying them anyway, Jeremy makes a heartfelt decision to put them to a more practical and generous use. Boelts blends themes of teasing, embarrassment and disappointment with kindness and generosity in a realistic interracial school scenario bringing affecting closure to a little boy’s effort to cope in a world filled with materialistic attractions and distractions. Muted browns/greens/blues done in watercolors, pencils and ink, and digitally arranged, add to the story’s expressive affirmation of what is really important. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-7636-2499-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

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