From first-time novelist Ammerman comes a sweetly standard tale of a ninth-grade nothing who gets shoved into the school spotlight.

If Judy Blume’s Peter Hatcher were in ninth grade, he would probably be friends with Zak Dale. Short, ordinary and seemingly invisible, Zak (or “Z,” as his friends call him) is accustomed to years of sliding through life without making waves. He keeps his head down and hopes that the teacher doesn’t call on him. But shattering a formaldehyde-and-sheep-brain-filled glass jar in the science room initiates a chain of events that causes Z’s invisibility factor to decrease—both for better (he receives classroom accolades and befriends hot newbie, Mia) and for worse (he’s hounded by bullies and gets reprimanded by the principal). This novel hits its stride in Z’s interactions with a particularly inspiring history teacher, and Miles, Z’s genius friend, lends interest with a unique science project that ends up shutting down school for the afternoon. However, transitions are jarring at points, character description bogs down the narrative and dialogue tends to be a bit stiff. There are also a few unnecessary subplots and unresolved issues; an incident of racial prejudice is never explained, a potential love interest disappears and the Dale family’s emotional electrician doesn’t spark any interest. The beauty of the book lies in the fact that it’s an old fashioned, tried-and-true, simple school story that could have taken place decades ago (if Ammerman had nixed the cell phones, of course). There are very few controversial issues within the text, making it an option for middle-schoolers. Though it’s a tad formulaic, the story is a winning one and should resonate with students who are tired of wizards and vampires. A good choice for readers looking for a quick, easy school story with a feel-good message.


Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-0984682201

Page Count: 263

Publisher: Kabloona

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some...


With a little help from his audience, a young storyteller gets over a solid case of writer’s block in this engaging debut.

Despite the (sometimes creatively spelled) examples produced by all his classmates and the teacher’s assertion that “Stories are everywhere!” Ralph can’t get past putting his name at the top of his paper. One day, lying under the desk in despair, he remembers finding an inchworm in the park. That’s all he has, though, until his classmates’ questions—“Did it feel squishy?” “Did your mom let you keep it?” “Did you name it?”—open the floodgates for a rousing yarn featuring an interloping toddler, a broad comic turn and a dramatic rescue. Hanlon illustrates the episode with childlike scenes done in transparent colors, featuring friendly-looking children with big smiles and widely spaced button eyes. The narrative text is printed in standard type, but the children’s dialogue is rendered in hand-lettered printing within speech balloons. The episode is enhanced with a page of elementary writing tips and the tantalizing titles of his many subsequent stories (“When I Ate Too Much Spaghetti,” “The Scariest Hamster,” “When the Librarian Yelled Really Loud at Me,” etc.) on the back endpapers.

An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0761461807

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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