From the Drew Pendous series , Vol. 1

A YouTube cartoon launches a chapter-book series with a story about rival summer camps.

Anything superhero kid Drew Pendous draws with his Pen Ultimate magically becomes real. As it’s summer, instead of Cool School he’s attending Camp Cool School. While the text reads with the evident presumption that readers are familiar with the show, early pages also give a rundown of characters and names (along with Drew, the protagonists are all white with the exception of a lone black character, Ella). The capstone activity of the summer is a color war against the Cruel School Camp, where instead of traditional activities they practice “drilling holes in one another’s canoes and making fun of small woodland creatures.” A second character rundown reveals that these campers are mostly evil versions of the heroes, especially Ray Blank, Drew’s evil twin, who has a magic eraser to counter the pen. Instead of offering up a parallel for Ella, the traits of rotund, food-obsessed Robby are split between two villains who are both just as pathetic as he is. The contests—tug of war, arm wrestling, and dodgeball—between blue Camp Cool and red Camp Cruel are interrupted by another villain, the color-stealing gray (literally) Grace Cale. To get their colors back, they must all work together. The bright artwork and the design—combining illustrated pages and comic-book panels—will appeal to kids, but the humor’s not strong enough to elevate characters or concept in unanimated form. And the reliance on fatness and disability stereotypes (one Camp Cruel counselor has two hooks and an eyepatch) further sucks the fun out of the enterprise.

Skip. (Graphic/adventure hybrid. 5-7)

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4549-3107-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character


From the Pedro series , Vol. 1

The creators of the Katie Woo series turn their focus to a peripheral character, first-grader Pedro—Katie’s friend and schoolmate.

Four short chapters—“Pedro Goes Buggy,” “Pedro’s Big Goal,” “Pedro’s Mystery Club,” and “Pedro For President”—highlight a Latino main character surrounded by a superbly diverse cast. At times unsure of himself, Pedro is extremely likable, for he wants to do his best and is a fair friend. He consistently comes out on top, even when his younger brother releases all the bugs he’s captured for a class assignment or when self-assured bully Roddy tries to unite opposition to Pedro’s female opponent (Katie Woo) in the race for first-grade class president. Using a third-person, past-tense narrative voice, Manushkin expands her repertoire by adding a hero comparable to EllRay Jakes. What is refreshing about the book is that for the most part, aside from Roddy’s gender-based bullying, the book overcomes boy-girl stereotypes: girls and boys play soccer, boys and girls run for president, girls and boys hunt for bugs, all setting a progressive standard for chapter books. With mixed-media illustrations featuring colorful bugs, soccer action, a mystery hunt, and a presidential campaign, Lyon’s attention to detail in color and facial expressions complements the story nicely.

This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character . (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5158-0112-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Picture Window Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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From the Diary of a Pug series , Vol. 1

A cuddly, squishy pug’s puggy-wuggy diary.

Equipped with both #pugunicorn and #pughotdog outfits, pug Baron von Bubbles (aka Bub) is the kind of dog that always dresses to impress. Bub also makes lots of memorable faces, such as the “Hey, you’re not the boss of me!” expression aimed at Duchess, the snooty pink house cat. Some of Bub’s favorite things include skateboarding, a favorite teddy, and eating peanut butter. Bub also loves Bella, who adopted Bub from a fair—it was “love at first sniff.” Together, Bub and Bella do a lot of arts and crafts. Their latest project: entering Bella’s school’s inventor challenge by making a super-duper awesome rocket. But, when the pesky neighborhood squirrel, Nutz, makes off with Bub’s bear, Bub accidentally ruins their project. How will they win the contest? More importantly, how will Bella ever forgive him? May’s cutesy, full-color cartoon art sets the tone for this pug-tastic romp for the new-to–chapter-books crowd. Emojilike faces accentuate Bub’s already expressive character design. Bub’s infectious first-person narration pushes the silly factor off the charts. In addition to creating the look and feel of a diary, the lined paper helps readers follow the eight-chapter story. Most pages have fewer than five sentences, often broken into smaller sections. Additional text appears in color-coded speech bubbles. Bella presents white.

Totes adorbs. (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-53003-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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