Miss Tingle’s third-grade class is having a talent show. Lamont, Gordie, and Lucy are back in the newest installment of McKenna’s series for new readers (Third Grade Ghouls, 2001, etc.). Almost everyone has some sort of talent. Lucy draws with her eyes closed, Lamont plays the guitar, and Mikey plays the piano with both hands. Gordie, who thinks he has no talent, brags that his dog, Scratch, can do tricks. Unfortunately, that’s a lie and Gordie has a week to teach Scratch to do something—anything. Adding to Gordie’s third-grade misery is the arrival of Red, a new boy in school. Red is not only talkative, wealthy, and acts in television commercials, but he has a professionally trained dog. Gordie’s best friend Lamont is totally smitten with Red and seems to have no time for Gordie. Readers of the previous books in this series will be surprised at Lamont’s shallowness as they watch Red ply him with sleepovers, special trips to see an NBA game, and the like. In the previous novel, Lamont would never break a planned date for fishing, even if it were for something as special as a trip to Cleveland. Lamont redeems himself in the end by reconnecting with Gordie, but it’s a rather neat and tidy ending, even for the predictable world of early chapter books. Gordie’s dog learns his card trick, aided by a smear of beloved peanut butter on the correct card, and Red’s trained dog gets stage fright in front of a full class of elementary-school children. Readers never do learn whether Red finds any friends. Perhaps that’s for another volume. Roth’s delightful and emotional black-and-white illustrations, particularly of the bereft Gordie talking on the phone with Lamont, add a lot to this thin tale. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 15, 2002

ISBN: 0-8234-1696-8

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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


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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Plenty of baseball action, but the paint-by-numbers plot is just a vehicle for equally standard-issue advice. .


For his eponymous imprint, the New York Yankees star leads off with a self-referential tale of Little League triumphs.

In the first of a projected 10 episodes based on the same number of “Life Lessons” espoused by the lead author’s Turn 2 Foundation, third-grader Derek turns in an essay announcing that his dream is to play shortstop for the New York Yankees (No. 1 on the Turn 2 list: “Set your goals high”). His parents take him seriously enough not only to present him with a “contract” that promises rewards for behaviors like working hard and avoiding alcohol and drugs, but also to put a flea in the ear of his teacher after she gives him a B-minus on the essay for being unrealistic. Derek then goes on to pull up his math grade. He also proceeds to pull off brilliant plays for his new Little League team despite finding himself stuck at second base while the coach’s son makes multiple bad decisions at shortstop and, worse, publicly puts down other team members. Jeter serves as his own best example of the chosen theme’s theoretical validity, but as he never acknowledges that making the majors (in any sport) requires uncommon physical talent as well as ambition and determination, this values-driven pitch is well out of the strike zone.

Plenty of baseball action, but the paint-by-numbers plot is just a vehicle for equally standard-issue advice. . (foundation ad and curriculum guide, not seen) (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4814-2312-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Jeter/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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