Substitute teachers are a rite of passage for students; this narrator’s change of heart provides a good example of handling...

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DEAR SUBSTITUTE

A rough day with a sub slowly improves as the child narrator gets to know her and is introduced to new things.

Each double-page spread is a letter addressed to some aspect of the day: “Dear Substitute, / Wow. This is a surprise. / What are you doing here? / Where’s Mrs. Giordano, / and why didn’t she warn us?” Opposite, Raschka’s watercolor-and-gouache portrait is appropriately grim and forbidding. Other addressees include “attendance” (the sub can’t pronounce some of the names), the homework the narrator labored over (a waste), and the class turtle (it’s “Tank Tuesday,” but it won’t get cleaned today). But after admonishing the narrator for lunch-trading (an allergy risk), the sub gives the class extra storytime, only with “strange little poems” instead of their chapter book. It turns out the narrator loves them, even making one (with the sub’s help) about the turtle, and just like that, the day is turned around. The narrator, depicted as a pale-skinned child with brown pigtails, has a new outlook on subs (and maybe new experiences): “Sometimes you’ve got to / mix things up a little.” Raschka’s characteristically splashy, modern-ish illustrations, while expressive and with colors that match the changing moods, are casually childlike and sometimes hard to decode.

Substitute teachers are a rite of passage for students; this narrator’s change of heart provides a good example of handling it with aplomb. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4847-5022-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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For fans of Evert and Breiehagen’s Wish Book series.

THE POLAR BEAR WISH

Anja and her dog, Birki, do their best to get to a Christmas party in a frozen Nordic landscape.

Anja wishes she had a dog sled to harness Birki to in order to get to the party. The next morning, her cousin Erik appears with his dog sled and an offer to take her there. Lost in a blizzard, they encounter talking wolves who take them to a tent where they can spend the night. A baby polar bear named Tiny appears, separated from his mother. The following day takes them all on an adventure through glaciers and fjords, past an ice castle, and finally to Tiny’s mother and to the party. This digitally produced book is illustrated with photographs that capture the Nordic setting. Unfortunately, the overall effect is weirdly flat, with elements awkwardly set together in images that lack depth. A polar bear perches awkwardly on top of oddly scaled pack ice; Anja and Erik spend a night in the ice castle in niches chiseled into the wall, but they seem oddly disconnected from it. The book has an old-fashioned, European feel; the white, blond children’s red caps and traditional clothing stand out against the dim, bluish winter light. But the wooden, overlong text does little to cultivate the magical fantasy feeling that it’s aiming for.

For fans of Evert and Breiehagen’s Wish Book series. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6566-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character

PEDRO, FIRST-GRADE HERO

From the Pedro series , Vol. 1

The creators of the Katie Woo series turn their focus to a peripheral character, first-grader Pedro—Katie’s friend and schoolmate.

Four short chapters—“Pedro Goes Buggy,” “Pedro’s Big Goal,” “Pedro’s Mystery Club,” and “Pedro For President”—highlight a Latino main character surrounded by a superbly diverse cast. At times unsure of himself, Pedro is extremely likable, for he wants to do his best and is a fair friend. He consistently comes out on top, even when his younger brother releases all the bugs he’s captured for a class assignment or when self-assured bully Roddy tries to unite opposition to Pedro’s female opponent (Katie Woo) in the race for first-grade class president. Using a third-person, past-tense narrative voice, Manushkin expands her repertoire by adding a hero comparable to EllRay Jakes. What is refreshing about the book is that for the most part, aside from Roddy’s gender-based bullying, the book overcomes boy-girl stereotypes: girls and boys play soccer, boys and girls run for president, girls and boys hunt for bugs, all setting a progressive standard for chapter books. With mixed-media illustrations featuring colorful bugs, soccer action, a mystery hunt, and a presidential campaign, Lyon’s attention to detail in color and facial expressions complements the story nicely.

This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character . (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5158-0112-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Picture Window Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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