Calvin continues to charm.

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ROCKET RIDE

From the Calvin Coconut series , Vol. 8

When Calvin Coconut's father schedules a concert in Oahu to promote his popular new album, Rocket Ride, Calvin is nervous and excited to see him for the first time in four years.

This is the eighth offering in a highly entertaining, heartfelt series. As in previous story arcs, Calvin must contend with a bully, Tito, whose obnoxious behavior often creates quandaries for Calvin as he squares off against him, which he does even as he realistically quakes in his boots. This installment is no exception—Tito initially ridicules a girl at school for liking Calvin's dad's music, but that doesn't stop him from later demanding that Calvin score him a ticket for the sold-out show. In a touching turn of events, normally antagonistic Stella, a teen friend of the family who lives with them, shares a bit about her own background to bolster Calvin's spirits. The main event is Calvin's reunion with his father. His dad is contrite, committing to make a change in order to see Calvin and his sister more often. Calvin feels good about this promise and feels immediate warmth toward Marissa, his dad’s new wife. The ease with which everyone accepts one another in Calvin’s family is remarkable, at times perhaps a touch unbelievable. Yet this story is also replete with strengths—funny, genuine dialogue, multidimensional characters and well-paced plotting, to name a few.

Calvin continues to charm. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-73965-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Young readers will recognize Suds as one of their own and will gladly follow him to fourth grade. Sweet and funny.

THIRD GRADE ANGELS

Suds Morton is not yet a “Fourth Grade Rat.” In this prequel to Spinelli's 1991 standby, he is a year younger and, according to his school’s traditional chant, he aspires to the sobriquet of “Third Grade Angel.”

When his teacher announces her intention of rewarding angelic behavior with a halo, Suds decides he wants to be the first angel. Between his cool new friend Joey, his wise mom and a little conclusion-jumping, he comes up with a plan. But, of course, his results are just a little off-kilter. Suds, nicknamed for his preference for calming soaks in bubble baths when he gets “chipmunky,” needs all the help he can get to deal with the various disasters and tribulations that threaten to overwhelm him. Along with the angel chase there’s a pesky little sister, a fifth-grade bully and total rejection by the girl he adores. Spinelli doesn’t miss a beat in recreating the characters from the earlier work and never reveals any hint of Suds’ fourth-grade future. He lets readers into Suds’ 8-year-old mind without condescension. His problems and concerns are treated comically but with genuine kindness. Suds is innocent, gullible and trusting; he is also entirely good-hearted.

Young readers will recognize Suds as one of their own and will gladly follow him to fourth grade. Sweet and funny. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-38772-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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