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SUMMERTIME & THE LIVIN' IS EASY

A family portrait as captivating as a Gershwin melody.

Awards & Accolades

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Dorch’s middle-grade book depicts a day in the life of a young girl and her loved ones.

Jasmine, a 10-year-old girl, helps her Mama clean the Harris’ house. The Harrises are kind, but the disparity between them and Jasmine’s family is evident. Dr. Harris checks Jasmine’s infected ear. Mrs. Harris notices that Jasmine’s shoes are held together with safety pins and offers Mama some clothes and shoes that their daughter, Cindy, outgrew (Jasmine sees a game called Dyslexia Quest on Cindy’s computer screen, but the author declines to elaborate). After work, Jasmine and Mama take the bus home with other maids. Stepdaddy and 11-year-old Frankie, Jasmine’s brother, return home from washing windows. Stepdaddy criticizes Frankie right away: “He left one of my wash buckets behind and when I went back to get it, it was gone and I ain’t got no money to replace it.” A simple supper of cornbread, neck bones, and pinto beans contrasts starkly with the Harris family’s dinner of “prime rib…candied yams…crescent rolls…and the key lime pie” prepared earlier by Mama. The hot summer evening continues with summer sounds, Jasmine questioning God’s existence, a green-tailed lightning bug, and simple games. When Stepdaddy asks the children to go to the store for bread, they head off, enjoying the walk until Jasmine loses their money. A search for it is unsuccessful. Mama has already bought bread, so all is well. The author creates a vivid portrait of a Black family getting through the day while holding on to hopes and dreams: Mama wants to become a nurse, Frankie an engineer, and Jasmine a preacher. Dorch’s simple color illustrations, including images of a bicycle rim and a train, support the text.

A family portrait as captivating as a Gershwin melody.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9781956691108

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Orion/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2023

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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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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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