Life is the best teacher, and if Charlie can survive all the troubles that come his way, maybe others can too.

CHARLIE BUMPERS VS. THE SQUEAKING SKULL

From the Charlie Bumpers series , Vol. 3

Award-winning storyteller Harley serves up hilarious high jinks squirming with Halloween trouble.

Charlie Bumpers is back on the scene, scaring himself into another life lesson with his fourth-grade friends. Tommy and Charlie always take their pesky little sisters trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. This year, though, the boys make big plans to wangle an invitation to their friend Alex’s party. Every kid dreams of snatching up full-sized candy bars in those upscale neighborhoods. But when Charlie discovers that the scariest movie ever will be shown at the sleepover, panic ensues. In an effort to prepare Charlie for the movie, older brother Matt gleefully shares the story of Simon Purslip, the long-fingered man who snatched people off the streets. The emotions shown in Gustavson’s ink-and-wash illustrations propel the storytelling further. Harley deftly covers the territory of unintended consequences, as a boy with good intentions ends up with a stolen costume idea, scary stories every day of the week and even less candy than before. Readers will empathize with the fear of being the most frightened kid in the room. Charlie’s thoughts and feelings are universal, making his realistic situation a learning experience for more than just the main character.

Life is the best teacher, and if Charlie can survive all the troubles that come his way, maybe others can too. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-56145-808-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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A Christmas cozy, read straight or bit by bit through the season.

HOW WINSTON DELIVERED CHRISTMAS

Neither snow nor rain nor mountains of yummy cheese stay the carrier of a letter to Santa.

So carelessly does 8-year-old Oliver stuff his very late letter to Santa into the mailbox that it falls out behind his back—leaving Winston, a “small, grubby white mouse” with an outsized heart, determined to deliver it personally though he has no idea where to go. Smith presents Winston’s Christmas Eve trek in 24 minichapters, each assigned a December “day” and all closing with both twists or cliffhangers and instructions (mostly verbal, unfortunately) for one or more holiday-themed recipes or craft projects. Though he veers occasionally into preciosity (Winston “tried to ignore the grumbling, rumbling noises coming from his tummy”), he also infuses his holiday tale with worthy values. Occasional snowy scenes have an Edwardian look appropriate to the general tone, with a white default in place but a few dark-skinned figures in view. Less-crafty children will struggle with the scantly illustrated projects, which run from paper snowflakes to clothespin dolls and Christmas crackers with or without “snaps,” but lyrics to chestnuts like “The 12 Days of Christmas” (and “Jingle Bells,” which is not a Christmas song, but never mind) at the end invite everyone to sing along.

A Christmas cozy, read straight or bit by bit through the season. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68412-983-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Silver Dolphin

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Absurd and wacky but also fast-paced and good-humored. Ho, ho, HO! (Fantasy. 7-10)

HAPPY HOWLIDAYS

A MIDDLE SCHOOL STORY

From the Dog Diaries series , Vol. 2

Following series opener Dog Diaries (2018), Junior, a dog of huge enthusiasm but not much sense, is back for a second romp with his ever so tolerant owner, “Ruff.”

It’s time for the howlidays, including Fangsgiving and, of course, Critter-Mess-Day, the one that features the mysterious Saint Lick! Junior’s take on these events¾all of them new to him since he’s recently been adopted from the pet shelter—is pretty funny. The story consists nearly entirely of his lively encounters with novel holiday-related stuff and his doggy interpretation of what he discovers, quite likely to appeal to children’s funny bones. All of this silliness is presented in first-dog narration in diary format, in large, clear print on pages that overflow with rollicking illustrations that are perfectly matched to the text. There is little in the way of plot or character development, just a series of silly episodes climaxing in Junior’s extremely thorough booby-trapping of the entire house to fend off Saint Lick since he’s heard the jolly fellow leaves “presents” all over the world—and everyone knows what those are: poop! Although his efforts leave the house flooded, toilet paper strewn everywhere and an angry family, Junior is proud of his accomplishment: no “presents.” Ruff (actually Rafe) is Armenian. The tale concludes with a helpful glossary of Doglish terms and several pages of games and drawing instruction.

Absurd and wacky but also fast-paced and good-humored. Ho, ho, HO! (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-45618-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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