HEY, NEW KID

Cody has just moved, and he's not taking it very well. After all his pleas to stay home from the first day in his new third grade fail, he reinvents himself as Super Cody, child genius and expert on everything. When this, predictably, backfires, he must learn to adjust to his new school without all the heroics. Duffey (Utterly Yours, Booker Jones, 1995, etc.) has created parents- -especially the father—who are ciphers and a boy who comes across as so self-pitying that it will be hard for readers to imagine what his old friends saw in him. It strains credulity that, at an age when a great deal of energy is spent on avoiding humiliation, a third grader would stupidly set himself up; it's even less believable that his classmates would be so uniformly kind, understanding, and sympathetic about it. Abrupt and didactic. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-670-86760-8

Page Count: 78

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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FOURTH GRADE RATS

The latest Newbery winner spins a funny, light story about a couple of boys who take to heart a familiar chant: "First grade babies!/Second grade cats!/Third Grade angels!/Fourth grade rats!" Narrator Suds (so called because a warm bath is his most effective solace) is having a tough time complying with best- friend Joey's demand that he give up baby stuff like peanut-butter sandwiches and his treasured elephant-covered lunch box; macho behavior—such as being mean to little kids and creating chaos in his room—is even harder, while saying "No" to his mom proves almost impossible. Still, Joey's new behavior—especially his stoicism after a bee-sting—have such a dramatic effect on friend Judy's affections that Suds makes the effort, to the dismay of parents and teacher. Judy's regard turns out to be as fickle as it is self-serving; she literally leaves Suds up a tree after he rescues her cat. After Mom comes to the rescue, she and Joey's mother call a halt to the premature adolescent behavior—to everyone's relief. The humor here is broad but genuinely comical, while the kids' real concerns are presented with sympathy; the parents are laudably sensible, assertive, and good at keeping their cool. A fine addition to the Cleary/Hurwitz league. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0590442449

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1991

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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