An altogether trite, values-driven star vehicle—worthy of purpose but aside from occasional game action, as dull as a rain...

HIT & MISS

Fourth-grader “Derek” works his way through a batting slump, pulls an outsider into his circle of friends, and atones for being a bully in this semiautobiographical sequel co-authored by the recently retired Yankees captain.

The actual story is preceded by a good-behavior “contract” between the future star and his invariably strict-but-fair parents, a list of 10 “Life Lessons,” plus an introductory note explaining that this episode—the second in a planned 10—will be based on the theme “Think Before You Act.” It is entirely a vehicle for platitudes and behavior modeling. Notwithstanding the gibes of his friends, Derek holds out a welcoming hand to Dave, a seemingly standoffish new class- and teammate who turns out to be a lonely rich kid with absentee parents. Meanwhile, Derek’s delight at the opening of Little League season turns to determination as he goes hitless through the first three games. Then he angrily gets into the face of a kindergartener who is bullying his little sister, Sharlee, and is called into the principal’s office with his parents for a disciplinary conference. Wheeling along past billboard-sized doses of both life and baseball coaching, plus repeated reminders to “stay positive,” every plotline ultimately coasts to a salutary resolution: Dave earns general acceptance through improved play on the field; Derek shows sincere remorse for his misdeed and formally apologizes to his victim (who later befriends Sharlee); and the base hits finally start coming as Derek leads his team to the championship game.

An altogether trite, values-driven star vehicle—worthy of purpose but aside from occasional game action, as dull as a rain delay. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-2315-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

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While this book and its companion appear to be meant for the lower elementary grades, these British imports will require too...

REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS

From the Children in Our World series

With this series entry, Roberts attempts to help readers understand that their peers in many parts of the world are suffering and becoming refugees because of “wars, natural disasters, and acts of terrorism.”

The book also speaks about migrants as people who “leave for a happier, healthier life, to join family members overseas, or because they don’t have enough money and need a job.” This effort aims to educate child readers, reassuring them that “most people have a safe and comfortable home to live in” and while “it can be upsetting to think about what life is like for refugees and migrants,” kids can do something to help. Some practical suggestions are provided and websites included for several aid organizations. Companion title Poverty and Hunger, by Louise Spilsbury and also illustrated by Kai, follows the same format, presenting a double-page spread with usually one to three short paragraphs on a topic. A yellow catlike animal with a black-and-white striped tail is found in every picture in both books and seems an odd unifying feature. Mixed-media illustrations in muted colors feature stylized children and adults against handsomely textured areas; they exude an empty sense of unreality in spite of racial diversity and varied landscapes. By trying too hard to make comparisons accessible, Roberts ends up trivializing some concepts. Speaking about camping and refugee camps in the same sentence is very misleading.

While this book and its companion appear to be meant for the lower elementary grades, these British imports will require too much adult intervention to be very useful. (bibliography, websites, glossary, index) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4380-5020-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Barron's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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The motivational agenda definitely outpaces the storytelling, but readers will be swept along to the finish line.

FINISH STRONG

SEVEN MARATHONS, SEVEN CONTINENTS, SEVEN DAYS

A veteran marathoner recalls an around-the-world race in 2018.

Still hoofing along after literally Running Across America (2019), McGillivray offers another autobiographical outing. This one sends him over “26.2 cold, crunchy miles” in Antarctica, “26.2 miles of out-and-back loops along the Persian Gulf,” and like distances on five other continents in a single week as a participant in the annual World Marathon Challenge. Though his terse accounts of places, faces, and races along the way are more snapshots than a connected narrative, they add up to some vivid memories, and he builds climactic suspense by describing how he powers through an increasingly painful injury to finish the final leg. Every experience, though, leads to an explicit inspirational slogan: “Set goals, not limits”; “Your greatest accomplishment is your next one”; “Never underestimate your own abilities”; “Finish strong…or weak. Just finish!” The lessons continue as he goes on to describe how a later diagnosis of heart disease (“Just because you’re fit, doesn’t mean you’re healthy”) led to surgery and—because a “comeback is always stronger than the setback”—a run in the Boston Marathon six months later. If that last bit seems aimed more at adults than kids, he goes for a more general audience with a final page of alternative “marathons,” like “Read! 26 Books” and “Reach Out! 26 Acts of Big-Hearted Kindness” modeled on a St. Louis initiative. Staid illustrations place the White author front and center in stylized foreign settings, occasionally with racially diverse groups of onlookers or fellow runners in the background.

The motivational agenda definitely outpaces the storytelling, but readers will be swept along to the finish line. (Picture book/memoir. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64741-039-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nomad Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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