Young readers should sympathize with the compassionate heroine, and perhaps start to feel empathy for others.

Case Two: Big Bully Holly Howler

From the Splunkunio Splunkey Detective and Peacemaker series

An alien detective and his elephant friends return in this second issue-based adventure for grade schoolers, filled with brightly colored photographs of puppet characters.

Ellie Elephant summons Splunkunio Splunkey, her alien friend who is a detective and peacemaker, because there is trouble at school that she doesn’t know how to handle. She explains that a new student is causing problems: “Big Bully Holly Howler. Nobody likes her!” Holly, a purple hippo, is taller than the other puppets: a long-haired zebra named Zena, Ellie and her friend Eli Elephant, a curly-haired lioness, and a pink hoodie-wearing tiger. Holly’s rude, cutting in line and stealing the basketball at recess. She swipes Ellie’s apple for their teacher, and pushes down Zena to take her wagon. Ellie and Eli rattle off a list of Holly’s wrongs, and young readers are likely to think that it’s clear why Holly doesn’t have any friends: she’s just not nice. But Splunkunio refuses to settle for the easy answer. He asks whether Holly acts badly to everyone, and wants to know whether she spends time with other students. When Ellie insists she must have friends somewhere, Splunkunio says, “Not everyone does. Especially people who act like bullies.” The alien urges the friends to treat Holly considerately, even if they continue to dislike her, then vanishes, assuring them they can handle this crisis on their own. Sure enough, when Ellie reaches out to Holly with kindness, everything changes. While this might not be a strategy that works with every bully, the messages in Ashley’s (Splunkunio Splunkey, 2005) tale that generosity can open doors to healing and that loneliness, rather than meanness, can cause kids to lash out remain welcome steps toward empathy. As Ellie learns to look at the world from another’s perspective, young audiences may follow suit. The author’s quirky photographs will either immediately connect with kids or feel too strange to relate to. The puppets are placed in stiff positions, frequently free-standing, sometimes in repeated poses, in a low-background house and a busy schoolroom.

Young readers should sympathize with the compassionate heroine, and perhaps start to feel empathy for others.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4808-2218-4

Page Count: 38

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2016

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NIM'S ISLAND

A child finds that being alone in a tiny tropical paradise has its ups and downs in this appealingly offbeat tale from the Australian author of Peeling the Onion (1999). Though her mother is long dead and her scientist father Jack has just sailed off on a quick expedition to gather plankton, Nim is anything but lonely on her small island home. Not only does she have constant companions in Selkie, a sea lion, and a marine iguana named Fred, but Chica, a green turtle, has just arrived for an annual egg-laying—and, through the solar-powered laptop, she has even made a new e-mail friend in famed adventure novelist Alex Rover. Then a string of mishaps darkens Nim’s sunny skies: her father loses rudder and dish antenna in a storm; a tourist ship that was involved in her mother’s death appears off the island’s reefs; and, running down a volcanic slope, Nim takes a nasty spill that leaves her feverish, with an infected knee. Though she lives halfway around the world and is in reality a decidedly unadventurous urbanite, Alex, short for “Alexandra,” sets off to the rescue, arriving in the midst of another storm that requires Nim and companions to rescue her. Once Jack brings his battered boat limping home, the stage is set for sunny days again. Plenty of comic, freely-sketched line drawings help to keep the tone light, and Nim, with her unusual associates and just-right mix of self-reliance and vulnerability, makes a character young readers won’t soon tire of. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81123-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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Simple, bella, un regalo permenente: simple and beautiful, a gift that will stay.

HOW TÍA LOLA CAME TO (VISIT) STAY

From the Tía Lola Stories series , Vol. 1

Renowned Latin American writer Alvarez has created another story about cultural identity, but this time the primary character is 11-year-old Miguel Guzmán. 

When Tía Lola arrives to help the family, Miguel and his hermana, Juanita, have just moved from New York City to Vermont with their recently divorced mother. The last thing Miguel wants, as he's trying to fit into a predominantly white community, is a flamboyant aunt who doesn't speak a word of English. Tía Lola, however, knows a language that defies words; she quickly charms and befriends all the neighbors. She can also cook exotic food, dance (anywhere, anytime), plan fun parties, and tell enchanting stories. Eventually, Tía Lola and the children swap English and Spanish ejercicios, but the true lesson is "mutual understanding." Peppered with Spanish words and phrases, Alvarez makes the reader as much a part of the "language" lessons as the characters. This story seamlessly weaves two culturaswhile letting each remain intact, just as Miguel is learning to do with his own life. Like all good stories, this one incorporates a lesson just subtle enough that readers will forget they're being taught, but in the end will understand themselves, and others, a little better, regardless of la lengua nativa—the mother tongue.

Simple, bella, un regalo permenente: simple and beautiful, a gift that will stay. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-80215-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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