This unlikely combination of royalty and social justice delivers fun, learning, and laughs.

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THE PRINCESS AND THE-ABSOLUTELY-NOT-A-PRINCESS

A princess and a self-described social justice advocate compete against and boycott each other until they discover they may be able to help each other if they could just get along.

It is the first day of school for Princess Miranda, and she does not want to be there. It smells like hard-boiled eggs (ugh), the principal is too loud, and everyone is whispering about her. Maude, however, loves going to school because she wants to “make sure things are equal for all people,” and the only way to do that is to be with “the People.” When Princess Miranda rejects Maude’s offer of a hard-boiled egg and then refuses the stinky handkerchief Maude extends after a sneeze, Maude thinks the princess is rude. When Maude draws a mean picture of her, Princess Miranda has had enough. She doesn’t invite Maude to her royal birthday party, which leads Maude to start a birthday boycott. This series opener is a short and sweet chapter book, decorated with von Innerebner’s child-friendly illustrations as well as the drawings that Maude makes in her journal. Wunsch weaves in lessons of empathy and withholding judgment in an accessible, nonpreachy way. She ably captures and expresses feelings of misunderstanding and loneliness, all while creating laugh-out-loud scenes in which the girls ramp up the competition. Miranda is depicted on the cover with brown skin and straight, dark brown hair; Maude has pale skin and a tousled mop of light brown hair.

This unlikely combination of royalty and social justice delivers fun, learning, and laughs. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3179-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Sweetly low-key and totally accessible.

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THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER

Billy Miller’s second-grade year is quietly spectacular in a wonderfully ordinary way.

Billy’s year begins with his worry over the lump on his head, a souvenir of a dramatic summer fall onto concrete: Will he be up to the challenges his new teacher promises in her letter to students? Quickly overshadowing that worry, however, is a diplomatic crisis over whether he has somehow offended Ms. Silver on the first day of school. Four sections—Teacher, Father, Sister and Mother—offer different and essential focal points for Billy’s life, allowing both him and readers to explore several varieties of creative endeavor, small adventures, and, especially, both challenges and successful problem-solving. The wonderfully self-possessed Sal, his 3-year-old sister, is to Billy much as Ramona is to Beezus, but without the same level of tension. Her pillowcase full of the plush yellow whales she calls the Drop Sisters (Raindrop, Gumdrop, etc.) is a memorable prop. Henkes offers what he so often does in these longer works for children: a sense that experiences don’t have to be extraordinary to be important and dramatic. Billy’s slightly dreamy interior life isn’t filled with either angst or boisterous silliness—rather, the moments that appear in these stories are clarifying bits of the universal larger puzzle of growing up, changing and understanding the world. Small, precise black-and-white drawings punctuate and decorate the pages.

Sweetly low-key and totally accessible. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-226812-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Series fans will enjoy revisiting familiar characters and exploring the island of Cuba with them.

THE MADRE DE AGUAS OF CUBA

From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 5

The Unicorn Rescue Society investigates the disappearance of a Cuban sea serpent.

In the fifth series installment, returning protagonists Uchenna and Elliot are in school, learning about water, when Professor Fauna calls them away. As the kids board the professor’s rickety single-propeller plane, they learn where exactly they are heading: Cuba. The island is in the middle of a massive drought, and Professor Fauna has reason to believe that the Madres de aguas (the Mother of Waters) has gone missing. It’s up to the society to find the sea serpent before any more damage is done to the people and wildlife of Cuba. As they set out on their mission of derring-do, they realize that once again they are up against their nemeses, the Schmoke Brothers. Via Yoenis, their Cuban American society liaison, Uchenna, Elliot, and readers learn about the political and economic hardships experienced by the people of Cuba, the island’s lack of basic goods and necessities, and Cuba’s need for real democracy (although the current role of the military is elided). This is conveyed within a quick, fast-paced read that’s ideal for kids who want a straightforward magical adventure. Uchenna is Nigerian, Elliot is white and Jewish, and Professor Fauna is Peruvian.

Series fans will enjoy revisiting familiar characters and exploring the island of Cuba with them. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3142-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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