Fans of Jeter and Mantell’s earlier books will find more of the same here.

READ REVIEW

FAIR BALL

Crises loom when a close friend suddenly turns standoffish, and the distraction affects young Derek’s play on the field.

Exemplifying No. 4 of Jeter’s Life Lessons, “The World Isn’t Always Fair,” the episode chronicles the drive to a citywide Little League trophy. The story acts as a platform for homilies about coping with bad breaks in baseball (and therefore life), frequent expostulations about fairness, and discussions of diversity with allusions to racial and class prejudice. Disturbed and angry that his wealthy, white friend Dave is abruptly avoiding him, Derek has such trouble keeping his head in the game that he whiffs at the plate and even muffs a play on the way to a playoff loss. It’s only a setback, though, and so amid pep talks and heroic plays capped by a walk-off inside-the-park home run, he goes on to lead the Indians (a team name that passes without comment here) to ultimate triumph. Meanwhile Derek defends a frenemy from bullies at school, studies for his finals, turns 11, and, with little sister Sharlee, absorbs the message that differences should be celebrated. The problem with Dave, which turns out to stem from a parental command to steer clear of the biracial, middle-class Jeters, is solved with an air-clearing tête-à-tête between the moms, and by the end everyone is looking forward to an awesome summer.

Fans of Jeter and Mantell’s earlier books will find more of the same here. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-9148-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Jeter/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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

WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE

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 fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers.

DRAGONS VS. UNICORNS

From the Kate the Chemist series

A fifth grade girl brings her love of chemistry to the school play.

Kate loves science so much she’s determined to breathe fire. Of course she knows that she needs adult supervision, and so, with her science teacher’s help, Kate demonstrates an experiment with cornstarch and a blowtorch that nearly sets her teacher’s cactus on fire. Consequences ensue. Can someone who loves science as much as Kate does find pleasure spending her fall break at drama camp? It turns out that even the school play—Dragons vs. Unicorns—needs a chemist, though, and Kate saves the day with glue and glitter. She’s sabotaged along the way, but everything is fine after Kate and her frenemy agree to communicate better (an underwhelming response to escalating bullying). Doodles decorate the pages; steps for the one experiment described that can be done at home—making glittery unicorn-horn glue—are included. The most exciting experiments depicted, though, include flames or liquid nitrogen and could only be done with the help of a friendly science teacher. Biberdorf teaches chemistry at the University of Texas and also performs science-education programs as “Kate the Chemist”; in addition to giving her protagonist her name and enthusiasm, she also seems represented in Kate-the-character’s love of the fictional YouTube personality “Dr. Caroline.” Kate and her nemesis are white; Kate’s best friends are black and South Asian.

A fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11655-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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