This story about facing and overcoming one’s fears is a winner.

THE STUPENDOUSLY SPECTACULAR SPELLING BEE

From the Spectacular Spelling Bee series , Vol. 1

India Wimple is a brilliant speller.

Each Friday night, the Wimple family huddles around the TV to watch the Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee, and she spells the words correctly every time. Still, when her little brother, Boo, suggests she sign up for the competition, the extremely shy India has her doubts. After some convincing, India makes the “valorous decision” to go for it. With the support of her loving family and some townsfolk (dressed in animal onesies in the belief the silliness will give her confidence), India is soon on her way from rural Yungabilla to the live, televised final at the Sydney Opera House. Each chapter of this Australian import begins with a featured word, defined and used in a sentence, that sums up the chapter. The black-and-white artwork supports the assumption that India (named for the country where her white parents met) is white; however, the illustrations of a dark-haired India contradict the text, which describes her as a redhead. Most of the supporting characters are white, although India’s spelling bee competitor and new friend is an actual Indian boy named Rajish. Both droll and heartwarming, the tale is rather more reminiscent of Little Miss Sunshine than Spellbound in its evocation of the quirky, lovingly supportive Wimples.

This story about facing and overcoming one’s fears is a winner. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6211-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.

HORRIBLE HARRY SAYS GOODBYE

From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A long-running series reaches its closing chapters.

Having, as Kline notes in her warm valedictory acknowledgements, taken 30 years to get through second and third grade, Harry Spooger is overdue to move on—but not just into fourth grade, it turns out, as his family is moving to another town as soon as the school year ends. The news leaves his best friend, narrator “Dougo,” devastated…particularly as Harry doesn’t seem all that fussed about it. With series fans in mind, the author takes Harry through a sort of last-day-of-school farewell tour. From his desk he pulls a burned hot dog and other items that featured in past episodes, says goodbye to Song Lee and other classmates, and even (for the first time ever) leads Doug and readers into his house and memento-strewn room for further reminiscing. Of course, Harry isn’t as blasé about the move as he pretends, and eyes aren’t exactly dry when he departs. But hardly is he out of sight before Doug is meeting Mohammad, a new neighbor from Syria who (along with further diversifying a cast that began as mostly white but has become increasingly multiethnic over the years) will also be starting fourth grade at summer’s end, and planning a written account of his “horrible” buddy’s exploits. Finished illustrations not seen.

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47963-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is...

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CRENSHAW

Applegate tackles homelessness in her first novel since 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan.

Hunger is a constant for soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson and his family, and the accompanying dizziness may be why his imaginary friend is back. A giant cat named Crenshaw first appeared after Jackson finished first grade, when his parents moved the family into their minivan for several months. Now they’re facing eviction again, and Jackson’s afraid that he won’t be going to school next year with his friend Marisol. When Crenshaw shows up on a surfboard, Jackson, an aspiring scientist who likes facts, wonders whether Crenshaw is real or a figment of his imagination. Jackson’s first-person narrative moves from the present day, when he wishes that his parents understood that he’s old enough to hear the truth about the family’s finances, to the first time they were homeless and back to the present. The structure allows readers access to the slow buildup of Jackson’s panic and his need for a friend and stability in his life. Crenshaw tells Jackson that “Imaginary friends don’t come of their own volition. We are invited. We stay as long as we’re needed.” The cat’s voice, with its adult tone, is the conduit for the novel’s lessons: “You need to tell the truth, my friend….To the person who matters most of all.”

Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is nevertheless a somberly affecting one . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04323-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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