A middle-grade debut fantasy-adventure novel about a student with a knack for getting in trouble.
After Albert Winter is reprimanded for calling his classmate, Lucy Dredgewater, a mean name and spilling water on another student’s art project, he manages to step in dog poop on the way home. He thinks he’s having a bad day, but things are about to get much worse. Soon, a mysterious voice sends him on a quest to rescue Lucy from a monster. Fortunately, he has some companions on his quest: his loyal Great Dane, Archie; and Stickman, a stick-figure drawing from the aforementioned art project. Together, they face an assortment of villains, including the stinky Squelcher and a bird of prey that bears a certain likeness to Albert’s teacher. They also meet some unlikely allies along the way, including some jelly babies and beautiful chickens that help them vanquish an army of thunder ants. They finally meet up with Lucy, who also turns out to be pretty helpful, and Albert realizes his true feelings for his classmate. The novel blends action and adventure with a healthy dose of humor. Stickman, in particular, provides a lot of comic relief, particularly with his smartphone obsession. In one funny scene, for example, he interrupts the action so that the three adventurers can pose for a selfie, which leads to the discovery of a giant tarantula just above their heads. Howick also provides flashbacks of Albert’s parents that provide some levity, including a memorable scene in which Albert’s father accidentally glues himself to a chair. Even the villains are more entertaining than threatening; as a result, the suspense isn’t likely to frighten youngsters. The book’s brief length may help draw in reluctant readers. Its clichéd conclusion, however, is a disappointment, although a surprise at the very end calls it into doubt.
A funny, exciting novel for young readers that’s likely to find many fans.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2014

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Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.


Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

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