From the Sam the Man series , Vol. 2

Readers will be happy to spend time with Sam the Man

Sam is saddled with a rutabaga as his vegetable for the next two weeks in second-grade science.

Sam doesn’t like any kind of vegetable, but once he sees his rutabaga—“the size of a softball”; “round, but not perfectly round”; half purple and half “dirty yellow”; and with “a weird brown thing sticking out of the top like a little tree stump”—he is sure he’s got the worst. How is he supposed to write a letter from the rutabaga’s perspective? Drawing a smiley face on it helps, as does naming it. All of a sudden Sam becomes deeply protective of Rudy. How can he make Rudy happy? Well, as his elderly friend and walking companion, Mr. Stockfish, tells him, rutabagas grow underground, so Rudy must want some nice dirt. Thus is born Sam’s plan to collect neighbors’ food scraps and make a compost pile in Mrs. Kerner’s backyard, where he boards his chicken, Helga. While this outing is not as obviously purposive as series opener Sam the Man & the Chicken Plan (2016), it is equally appealing. Sam’s simultaneous awareness that Rudy is not alive and deepening investment in Rudy’s well-being are developmentally spot-on. Dowell’s characterizations are deft, accomplished in small but telling details. Sam is white, as is Mrs. Kerner, and Mr. Stockfish is black; the romance developing between the latter two is a quiet delight.

Readers will be happy to spend time with Sam the Man . (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4069-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017


From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

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

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. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018


From the Bea Garcia series , Vol. 4

A funny and timely primer for budding activists.

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 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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