This charming second title in the Nora Notebooks series is a fine place for middle-grade readers to be introduced to Nora’s...

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THE TROUBLE WITH BABIES

From the Nora Notebooks series , Vol. 2

With a new baby at home and an incompatible science-fair partner at school, fourth-grader Nora Alpers has trouble everywhere.

Ant-observer Nora is not so sure about becoming an aunt herself. The budding scientist’s older sister’s new baby has disrupted the household and seems to cry constantly. She'd love to be able to experiment on niece Nellie for the science fair, but her family and her partner, Emma Averill, both nix that. What Emma wants is for Nora to have a baby-viewing party for her classmates, but Nora can’t even bring herself to ask her mother and sister if that’s OK. On top of that, she has to write diary entries about an imaginary westward trip in which she is happily married to Dunk, the classmate she dislikes most. The third-person narrative sticks to Nora’s perspective as she comes to terms with the changes in her family and solves her school issues in ways that satisfyingly reflect her own quirky self. Along the way, she provides dozens of interesting notebook entries about babies. “Most Caucasian babies have grayish blue eyes, and the color often changes by the fifth or sixth month.” Like Nellie, Nora and most of the other characters appear to be white.

This charming second title in the Nora Notebooks series is a fine place for middle-grade readers to be introduced to Nora’s engaging curiosity about the world. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-39165-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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Young readers will recognize Suds as one of their own and will gladly follow him to fourth grade. Sweet and funny.

THIRD GRADE ANGELS

Suds Morton is not yet a “Fourth Grade Rat.” In this prequel to Spinelli's 1991 standby, he is a year younger and, according to his school’s traditional chant, he aspires to the sobriquet of “Third Grade Angel.”

When his teacher announces her intention of rewarding angelic behavior with a halo, Suds decides he wants to be the first angel. Between his cool new friend Joey, his wise mom and a little conclusion-jumping, he comes up with a plan. But, of course, his results are just a little off-kilter. Suds, nicknamed for his preference for calming soaks in bubble baths when he gets “chipmunky,” needs all the help he can get to deal with the various disasters and tribulations that threaten to overwhelm him. Along with the angel chase there’s a pesky little sister, a fifth-grade bully and total rejection by the girl he adores. Spinelli doesn’t miss a beat in recreating the characters from the earlier work and never reveals any hint of Suds’ fourth-grade future. He lets readers into Suds’ 8-year-old mind without condescension. His problems and concerns are treated comically but with genuine kindness. Suds is innocent, gullible and trusting; he is also entirely good-hearted.

Young readers will recognize Suds as one of their own and will gladly follow him to fourth grade. Sweet and funny. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-38772-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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