Retro fun for persistent readers.



The eponymous rising fifth grader is a Canadian girl who is determined to earn enough points over the summer to be a contestant for Junior Journalist at Cantilever’s newspaper, the Town Crier.

Kiddo’s first stumbling block is the fact that her poor spelling almost makes her ineligible, until her mother intervenes—with a clever use of logic—to raise Kiddo’s final grades on her report card. The ignorance of learning disabilities combines with other clues to let readers familiar with Canadian history and culture know the setting is probably the 1970s. It is unfortunate for young U.S. readers that there is no date or overt historical clue early on; they may immediately dismiss Kiddo’s language and behavior as oddly corny and immature instead of as representative of kids in a different era. Some preteen readers will either giggle nervously or stop reading at the early description of Kiddo’s older sister’s trainer-bra antics. Kiddo narrates the story with gusto, and readers who stay with it will enjoy the neighborhood camaraderie, small-town adventures, character types, and even illustrations that emulate Beverly Cleary’s chapter books. Kiddo’s presumed-white, affectionate, working-class family has friends with both East Asian and South Asian names. An abundance of humor in all its forms moves the plot and its many subplots to satisfying conclusions.

Retro fun for persistent readers. (Historical fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-896580-66-1

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Tradewind Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

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Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet!


Ryan Hart is navigating the fourth grade and all its challenges with determination.

Her mom named her Ryan because it means “king,” and she wanted Ryan to feel powerful every time she heard her name; Ryan knows it means she is a leader. So when changes occur or disaster strikes, budding chef Ryan does her best to find the positive and “make sunshine.” When her dad is laid off from the post office, the family must make adjustments that include moving into a smaller house, selling their car, and changing how they shop for groceries. But Ryan gets to stay at Vernon Elementary, and her mom still finds a way to get her the ingredients she needs to practice new recipes. Her older brother, Ray, can be bossy, but he finds little ways to support her, especially when she is down—as does the whole family. Each episodic chapter confronts Ryan with a situation; intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching, they should be familiar and accessible to readers, as when Ryan fumbles her Easter speech despite careful practice. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and Watson continues to bring visibility to both Portland, Oregon, generally and its Black community specifically, making another wonderful contribution that allows Black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love.

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0056-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A bit disjointed and episodic, but Tristan is a likable companion.


From the Doughnut Fix series , Vol. 1

Tristan’s family has always loved living in New York City, but all that is about to change.

Dad announces that they are moving to a dilapidated, purple house on a hill on the outskirts of the very small town of Petersville in upstate New York. Baby sister Zoe is frightened and confused. Jeanine, two years younger than Tristan and a math genius in gifted and talented classes, is appalled and worried about her educational prospects. Tristan is devastated, for he is a city kid through and through. Because they won’t be starting school for several months, their parents tell Jeanine and Tristan they must complete a project. Jeanine selects a complicated scientific and mathematical study that allows her to remain uninvolved with people. Tristan, who loves to cook, like his chef mom, decides to start a business making and selling the supposedly mind-blowing chocolate-cream doughnuts once famous in Petersville but now no longer made. His business plan leads to adventures, new friends, and a sense of acceptance. Tristan is a charmer; he’s earnest, loving, wistful, and practical, and he narrates his own tale without guile. But he is the only character so well defined—next to him, the supporting cast feels flat. The family is described as Jewish early on, but their Judaism is kept well to the background; the people of Petersville are white by default.

A bit disjointed and episodic, but Tristan is a likable companion. (recipes, business plan, acknowledgements) (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5541-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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