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NICOLE'S NEW FRIEND

From the Lady Tigers Series series , Vol. 3

An unevenly written, message-heavy story of sports and friendship.

Young softball players get lessons in sportsmanship in the third book in Brotherton’s (Margie Makes A Difference, 2017, etc.) middle-grade series.

This latest installment about the adventures of the Lady Tigers under-14 softball team follows the story of third baseman Nicole Carter. She loves everything about the team until an aggressive, ambitious new player, Diana Shumaker, shows up at practice. Diana’s family moved to town so that Diana could play in a more challenging league, and her competitive nature—and that of her mother, a former softball player—is evident from her first practice. Her attempts to show up the other players quickly erode team morale (“The friendly banter that was so common at the Lady Tigers’s practices was absent as the girls went through the throwing motions with a sort of dreary rhythm”), and matters come to a head when the Tigers play the Rockets, a team known for their poor sportsmanship. The Tigers’ coaches are aware of Diana’s bad influence, but Nicole continues to try to be friends with the new girl, hoping that their shared love of the sport will triumph over their individual ambitions. Brotherton has a solid grasp of softball mechanics, and the book has no shortage of ballplaying scenes that will capture athletic readers’ imaginations (“The runner conducted a beautiful slide-by, her feet sliding behind the bag to avoid the tag as she reached back with her arm to make contact”). At the same time, however, the prose is frequently simple and repetitive (“ ‘Good thing it was only a dream,’ Tammy said. ‘Thanks. Now I don’t feel so silly about my bunt dream,’ Nicole said”). There’s also little subtlety in the book’s determined moralizing: “Nicole marveled at the difference between the sportsmanship between this game and the last one against the Rockets. This was the softball she enjoyed the most.” That said, this book will still appeal to many young readers looking for action-oriented sports stories.

An unevenly written, message-heavy story of sports and friendship.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2017

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THE ONE AND ONLY FAMILY

From the One and Only series , Vol. 4

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series.

Beloved gorilla Ivan becomes a father to rambunctious twins in this finale to a quartet that began with 2012’s Newbery Award–winning The One and Only Ivan.

Life hasn’t always been easy for silverback gorilla Ivan, who’s spent most of his life being mistreated in captivity. Now he’s living in a wildlife sanctuary, but he still gets to see his two best friends. Young elephant Ruby lives in the grassy habitat next door, and former stray dog Bob has a home with one of the zookeepers. All three were rescued from the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan’s expanded world includes fellow gorilla Kinyani—the two are about to become parents, and Ivan is revisiting the traumas of his past in light of what he wants the twins to know. When the subject inevitably comes up, Applegate’s trust and respect for readers is evident. She doesn’t shy away from hard truths as Ivan wrestles with the fact that poachers killed his family. Readers will need the context provided by knowledge of the earlier books to feel the full emotional impact of this story. The rushed ending unfortunately falls flat, detracting from the central message that a complex life can still contain hope. Final art not seen.

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series. (gorilla games, glossary, author’s note) (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780063221123

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

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