A sweet slice of neighborhood life; here’s hoping for more of Sam the Man

SAM THE MAN & THE CHICKEN PLAN

Seven-year-old Sam’s search for a job leads him to chickens and an unexpected friendship.

Sam’s father does “something with computers,” his mother does “something with clients,” and his older sister, Annabelle, mows lawns at “20 bucks a pop.” When his neighbor stops by to ask Annabelle if she’d take care of her chickens while she’s away for the weekend, Sam persuades Mrs. Kerner that he can do it. He soon realizes he needs a steady stream of income and thinks that maybe his own chicken could help. He arranges with Mrs. Kerner to board his new chicken with hers in exchange for overall chicken care, and he pays his father back for Helga, who lays blue eggs, by taking a job as his elderly neighbor’s exercise companion. Dowell creates in Sam a completely believable 7-year-old whose desires “to be an expert on something” and to emulate his family members combine organically to drive this story of intergenerational (and interspecies) friendship. His burgeoning relationship with grumpy Mr. Stockfish is as much a joy to watch as his excitement over Helga’s first egg. The financial lessons he learns are valuable ones, delivered painlessly in the tightly focused third-person narration. Bates’ soft pencil illustrations depict Sam’s close-knit family as white, Mr. Stockfish and his daughter as black, and his classmates as diverse in color.

A sweet slice of neighborhood life; here’s hoping for more of Sam the Man . (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4066-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.

HORRIBLE HARRY SAYS GOODBYE

From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A long-running series reaches its closing chapters.

Having, as Kline notes in her warm valedictory acknowledgements, taken 30 years to get through second and third grade, Harry Spooger is overdue to move on—but not just into fourth grade, it turns out, as his family is moving to another town as soon as the school year ends. The news leaves his best friend, narrator “Dougo,” devastated…particularly as Harry doesn’t seem all that fussed about it. With series fans in mind, the author takes Harry through a sort of last-day-of-school farewell tour. From his desk he pulls a burned hot dog and other items that featured in past episodes, says goodbye to Song Lee and other classmates, and even (for the first time ever) leads Doug and readers into his house and memento-strewn room for further reminiscing. Of course, Harry isn’t as blasé about the move as he pretends, and eyes aren’t exactly dry when he departs. But hardly is he out of sight before Doug is meeting Mohammad, a new neighbor from Syria who (along with further diversifying a cast that began as mostly white but has become increasingly multiethnic over the years) will also be starting fourth grade at summer’s end, and planning a written account of his “horrible” buddy’s exploits. Finished illustrations not seen.

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47963-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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A funny and timely primer for budding activists.

THE TREE AND ME

From the Bea Garcia series , Vol. 4

Problems are afoot at Emily Dickinson Elementary School, and it’s up to Bea Garcia to gather the troops and fight.

Bea Garcia and her best friend, Judith Einstein, sit every day under the 250-year-old oak tree in their schoolyard and imagine a face in its trunk. They name it “Emily” after their favorite American poet. Bea loves to draw both real and imagined pictures of their favorite place—the squirrels in the tree, the branches that reach for the sky, the view from the canopy even though she’s never climbed that high. Until the day a problem boy does climb that high, pelting the kids with acorns and then getting stuck. Bert causes such a scene that the school board declares Emily a nuisance and decides to chop it down. Bea and Einstein rally their friends with environmental facts, poetry, and artwork to try to convince the adults in their lives to change their minds. Bea must enlist Bert if she wants her plan to succeed. Can she use her imagination and Bert’s love of monsters to get him in line? In Bea’s fourth outing, Zemke gently encourages her protagonist to grow from an artist into an activist. Her energy and passion spill from both her narration and her frequent cartoons, which humorously extend the text. Spanish-speaking Bea’s Latinx, Einstein and Bert present white, and their classmates are diverse.

A funny and timely primer for budding activists. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 6-9)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2941-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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