THE BEST HORSE EVER

For nine-year-old Abby, owning a horse—her OWN horse—is a certified dream come true. Griffin is steady and dependable, and Abby’s ridden him in riding lessons many times. Still, taking care of him by herself proves to be a big step up from helping to care for the family’s elderly small pony, Marshmallow. DeLaCroix is a dab hand at understanding issues from a third-grader’s point of view, and she shows Abby’s realistic struggles, joys and fears. But her pacing is uneven. The magical moment when Abby is allowed to get a horse is reduced to one passive voice line: “Griffin was to be Abby’s.” The conflict between Abby and her friend, Devon, who’s afraid of Griffin, feels somewhat forced and incidental to the story of Abby learning to cope with her new role as horse owner. Himler’s pencil illustrations are lovely, as always. Despite its small faults, its heart is true, and this book will please every hopeful, horse-loving third-grade girl who picks it up. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 15, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2254-8

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2010

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Sweetly low-key and totally accessible.

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THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER

Billy Miller’s second-grade year is quietly spectacular in a wonderfully ordinary way.

Billy’s year begins with his worry over the lump on his head, a souvenir of a dramatic summer fall onto concrete: Will he be up to the challenges his new teacher promises in her letter to students? Quickly overshadowing that worry, however, is a diplomatic crisis over whether he has somehow offended Ms. Silver on the first day of school. Four sections—Teacher, Father, Sister and Mother—offer different and essential focal points for Billy’s life, allowing both him and readers to explore several varieties of creative endeavor, small adventures, and, especially, both challenges and successful problem-solving. The wonderfully self-possessed Sal, his 3-year-old sister, is to Billy much as Ramona is to Beezus, but without the same level of tension. Her pillowcase full of the plush yellow whales she calls the Drop Sisters (Raindrop, Gumdrop, etc.) is a memorable prop. Henkes offers what he so often does in these longer works for children: a sense that experiences don’t have to be extraordinary to be important and dramatic. Billy’s slightly dreamy interior life isn’t filled with either angst or boisterous silliness—rather, the moments that appear in these stories are clarifying bits of the universal larger puzzle of growing up, changing and understanding the world. Small, precise black-and-white drawings punctuate and decorate the pages.

Sweetly low-key and totally accessible. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-226812-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS

This is rather a silly story, and I don't believe children will think it particularly funny. A paper hanger and painter finds time on his hands in winter, and spends it in reading of arctic exploration. It is all given reality when he receives a present of a penguin, which makes its nest in the refrigerator on cubes of ice, mates with a lonely penguin from the zoo, and produces a family of penguins which help set the Poppers on their feet.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1938

ISBN: 978-0-316-05843-8

Page Count: 139

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1938

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