This series kickoff is a warmly satisfying and very useful exploration of coping strategies—and friendship.

PROJECT BEST FRIEND

From the Penelope Perfect series , Vol. 1

Penelope wants things just-so in her life: crayons all the same height in the mug, books organized neatly, and teddy bears in a tidy row. If only getting along with her classmates were so manageable.

With a new girl joining her class, Penelope decides it’s time to make herself a best friend. Unfortunately, the white grade schooler doesn’t anticipate that Bob, as Brittany calls herself, won’t be anything like what she imagined her best friend would be. Surprised when all the other girls in her class rush to fawn over Bob, Penelope’s so frustrated that she has a gigantic, humiliating meltdown. It’s only after Oscar, a kindly and perceptive classmate that she’s previously discounted, gently eases her back into her dreadful day, and she later overhears Bob defending her outburst, that Penelope follows Grandpa George’s advice for coping—to just “go with the flow.” When that works well on an unplanned visit to Bob’s new house, she also discovers that the pair has much in common, promising a bright future. With brief text and black-and-white illustrations with informative captions (that depict a largely white cast), Perry sketches believable characters in familiar situations. One of the refreshing parts about this tale is that classmates pull back from bullying behavior, policing themselves when the situation seems ready to get out of hand.

This series kickoff is a warmly satisfying and very useful exploration of coping strategies—and friendship. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6602-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is...

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CRENSHAW

Applegate tackles homelessness in her first novel since 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan.

Hunger is a constant for soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson and his family, and the accompanying dizziness may be why his imaginary friend is back. A giant cat named Crenshaw first appeared after Jackson finished first grade, when his parents moved the family into their minivan for several months. Now they’re facing eviction again, and Jackson’s afraid that he won’t be going to school next year with his friend Marisol. When Crenshaw shows up on a surfboard, Jackson, an aspiring scientist who likes facts, wonders whether Crenshaw is real or a figment of his imagination. Jackson’s first-person narrative moves from the present day, when he wishes that his parents understood that he’s old enough to hear the truth about the family’s finances, to the first time they were homeless and back to the present. The structure allows readers access to the slow buildup of Jackson’s panic and his need for a friend and stability in his life. Crenshaw tells Jackson that “Imaginary friends don’t come of their own volition. We are invited. We stay as long as we’re needed.” The cat’s voice, with its adult tone, is the conduit for the novel’s lessons: “You need to tell the truth, my friend….To the person who matters most of all.”

Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is nevertheless a somberly affecting one . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04323-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.

HORRIBLE HARRY SAYS GOODBYE

From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A long-running series reaches its closing chapters.

Having, as Kline notes in her warm valedictory acknowledgements, taken 30 years to get through second and third grade, Harry Spooger is overdue to move on—but not just into fourth grade, it turns out, as his family is moving to another town as soon as the school year ends. The news leaves his best friend, narrator “Dougo,” devastated…particularly as Harry doesn’t seem all that fussed about it. With series fans in mind, the author takes Harry through a sort of last-day-of-school farewell tour. From his desk he pulls a burned hot dog and other items that featured in past episodes, says goodbye to Song Lee and other classmates, and even (for the first time ever) leads Doug and readers into his house and memento-strewn room for further reminiscing. Of course, Harry isn’t as blasé about the move as he pretends, and eyes aren’t exactly dry when he departs. But hardly is he out of sight before Doug is meeting Mohammad, a new neighbor from Syria who (along with further diversifying a cast that began as mostly white but has become increasingly multiethnic over the years) will also be starting fourth grade at summer’s end, and planning a written account of his “horrible” buddy’s exploits. Finished illustrations not seen.

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47963-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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