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From the Charlie Bumpers series , Vol. 3

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

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 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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

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 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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From the Invisible Inkling series , Vol. 2

Appealing any time of the year.

Brooklyn fourth-grader Hank Wolowitz faces his worst Halloween ever when his invisible friend, Inkling, discovers that pumpkins are his favorite kind of food.

It's hard enough to keep the bandapat in the laundry basket a secret from his parents, his sister, Nadia, his downstairs neighbor Chin and his classmates. Just keeping him fed takes all the pay from his job at the family ice-cream parlor, and he's had to invent a top-secret project to explain all the squash he's been buying. When Inkling goes bananas and chews up Nadia's artwork—four intricately carved pumpkins—Hank takes the blame for the violence. Worse, although his father had promised to use one of his ideas for their special Halloween ice-cream flavor this year, they are advertising his sister's stupid candy crunch. Finally, he has no one to go trick-or-treating with. Hank’s first-person narration is appropriately self-pitying. But while his unseen pet can cause trouble, the bandapat also helps. Gentle humor and a realistic urban setting add interest to this solid middle-grade read. Unlike Hank, readers can actually see the bandapat in Bliss’ gray-scale cartoons. (Final art not seen.) Events of the first book (Invisible Inkling, 2011) are summarized early on, and Jenkins introduces her characters and the situation so smoothly that readers can easily start here.

Appealing any time of the year. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-180223-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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