A young family favorite charms her teacher in this affecting novel from a century ago.


Nesthäkchen's First School Year


A children’s classic relates a little girl’s first experiences at school in Germany.

Lehrer’s English-language translation of the “Nesthäkchen” novels by Holocaust victim Ury continues with this rendition of 1915’s Nesthäkchens Erstes Schuljahr, the second installment in the 10-volume series. The books follow its title character, the “Nesthäkchen,” or young family’s favorite girl, from infancy to old age. Annemarie Braun is the perky, blonde, youngest daughter of a prosperous Berlin doctor, and in this episode, she’s just turned 7 years old and attends school for the first time, taken there by her nanny after saying goodbye to her wistful parents. Her older brothers Hans and Klaus have been students for years, but this is Annemarie’s first time away from home for even short periods, and Ury evocatively captures the combination of excitement and dread that can fill a child’s mind when encountering a new environment for the first time. The activities of that new place are likewise portrayed with a fine mix of clarity and nostalgia: little Annemarie learns to make friends, to listen occasionally to her teacher, and to participate in various school activities, bubblingly recounting everything to her parents when she returns home. She meets girls named Margot Thielen and Hilde Rabe; she beguiles her teacher; and she learns her letters from a colorful primer. All of this is rendered with a carefully controlled drip of romanticism designed to appeal to both children and their reminiscing parents, and Lehrer’s clear, accessible translation is smoothly, appealingly colloquial. The footnotes he provides are minimal and helpful, but this touching section of the Nesthäkchen’s life story is simple enough to require very little textual elaboration. Readers should be transported not only to an earlier era’s childhood world, but to a glowingly idealized version of that realm, and they will likely be as enchanted by Annemarie as were Ury’s original readers.

A young family favorite charms her teacher in this affecting novel from a century ago.

Pub Date: July 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-5006-8620-8

Page Count: 244

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2016

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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Thought-provoking and charming.

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A sophisticated robot—with the capacity to use senses of sight, hearing, and smell—is washed to shore on an island, the only robot survivor of a cargo of 500.

When otters play with her protective packaging, the robot is accidently activated. Roz, though without emotions, is intelligent and versatile. She can observe and learn in service of both her survival and her principle function: to help. Brown links these basic functions to the kind of evolution Roz undergoes as she figures out how to stay dry and intact in her wild environment—not easy, with pine cones and poop dropping from above, stormy weather, and a family of cranky bears. She learns to understand and eventually speak the language of the wild creatures (each species with its different “accent”). An accident leaves her the sole protector of a baby goose, and Roz must ask other creatures for help to shelter and feed the gosling. Roz’s growing connection with her environment is sweetly funny, reminiscent of Randall Jarrell’s The Animal Family. At every moment Roz’s actions seem plausible and logical yet surprisingly full of something like feeling. Robot hunters with guns figure into the climax of the story as the outside world intrudes. While the end to Roz’s benign and wild life is startling and violent, Brown leaves Roz and her companions—and readers—with hope.

Thought-provoking and charming. (Science fiction/fantasy. 7-11)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-38199-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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