7 x 9 = TROUBLE

Wilson would be having a wonderful time in third grade if he could learn his multiplication tables. But there they are—mocking him with their inexplicable patterns and never-ending challenges. He even has to take a note home to his parents asking for help, and now everyone is in on the act. Seems to Wilson that everyone can learn the tables except for him: Laura Vicks, the class brain, Josh Hernandez, his best friend, and even his little kindergartner brother is better with numbers than Wilson is. There is much to like in this tale for new readers. The sensible and helpful parents comfort Wilson when the timed tests prove daunting, never threatening or humiliating him because he struggles. His teacher Mrs. Porter is supportive of him, gently nudging him to try, try again. Even the other children in the class are patient and encouraging when Wilson is the final third grader to attempt the twelves tables. Someone has to be last to get his the reward of the ice cream cone and everyone is pulling for Wilson. The dialogue is realistic but not predictable, and the situations are pure third grade with subplots about a class hamster, a best friend who makes up droll rhymes, and an adoring little brother who gets in the way sometimes. Mills (Gus and Grandpa at Basketball, 2001, etc.) gets the serious parts just right, too. Wilson is truly worried about the multiplication tables. Wilson and little brother Kipper really do want a pet. Wilson’s parents truly want to help Wilson, but are willing to let him take responsibility for his own challenges. With its short chapters, familiar story line, and Karas’s (Muncha, Muncha, Muncha, 2002, etc.) warm, light-touch illustrations, this adds up to an excellent selection for the new chapter book reader. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 9, 2002

ISBN: 0-374-36746-9

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2002

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An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.

BOOKMARKS ARE PEOPLE TOO!

From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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Readers will be waiting to see how Charlie faces his next challenge in a series that marks a lovely change of pace from the...

CHARLIE BUMPERS VS. THE TEACHER OF THE YEAR

From the Charlie Bumpers series , Vol. 1

Charlie Bumpers is doomed. The one teacher he never wanted in the whole school turns out to be his fourth-grade teacher.

Charlie recalls third grade, when he accidentally hit the scariest teacher in the whole school with his sneaker. “I know all about you, Charlie Bumpers,” she says menacingly on the first day of fourth grade. Now, in addition to all the hardships of starting school, he has gotten off on the wrong foot with her. Charlie’s dry and dramatic narrative voice clearly reveals the inner life of a 9-year-old—the glass is always half empty, especially in light of a series of well-intentioned events gone awry. It’s quite a litany: “Hitting Mrs. Burke in the head with the sneaker. The messy desk. The swinging on the door. The toilet paper. And now this—the shoe on the roof.” Harley has teamed once again with illustrator Gustavson (Lost and Found, 2012) to create a real-life world in which a likable kid must face the everyday terrors of childhood: enormous bullies, looming teachers and thick gym coaches with huge pointing fingers. Into this series opener, Harley magically weaves the simple lesson that people, even teachers, can surprise you.

Readers will be waiting to see how Charlie faces his next challenge in a series that marks a lovely change of pace from the sarcasm of Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-56145-732-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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