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

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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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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Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic.

STICKS AND STONES

Veteran picture-book creator Polacco tells another story from her childhood that celebrates the importance of staying true to one’s own interests and values.

After years of spending summers with her father and grandmother, narrator Trisha is excited to be spending the school year in Michigan with them. Unexpectedly abandoned by her summertime friends, Trisha quickly connects with fellow outsiders Thom and Ravanne, who may be familiar to readers from Polacco’s The Junkyard Wonders (2010). Throughout the school year, the three enjoy activities together and do their best to avoid school bully Billy. While a physical confrontation between Thom (aka “Sissy Boy”) and Billy does come, so does an opportunity for Thom to defy convention and share his talent with the community. Loosely sketched watercolor illustrations place the story in the middle of the last century, with somewhat old-fashioned clothing and an apparently all-White community. Trisha and her classmates appear to be what today would be called middle schoolers; a reference to something Trisha and her mom did when she was “only eight” suggests that several years have passed since that time. As usual, the lengthy first-person narrative is cozily conversational but includes some challenging vocabulary (textiles, lackeys, foretold). The author’s note provides a brief update about her friends’ careers and encourages readers to embrace their own differences. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2622-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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