An appealingly illustrated early reader that’s strong on social message but rather weak on plot.

THE BUDDY BENCH

From the Confetti Kids series

When Padma and her friends notice a lonely new boy at school, they make a plan to help him feel included.

Padma loves school, and she loves her friends. When she finds out that she has been assigned to a different classroom than her friends, she isn’t bothered, seeing it instead it as an opportunity to make new friends. But Padma notices a new boy who stands by himself at the side of the playground, looking lonely. To help him feel included, Padma and her friends get the principal’s permission to create a "buddy bench," a place where kids can sit together and make new friends. After some initial hesitation, the lonely boy sits on the bench, and Padma and her friends learn that Zander’s mom is a military pilot and that the family has been through a number of moves. Padma strikes up a friendship with him, and by the end of the book, he has been absorbed into Padma’s happy and diverse peer group. Padma’s name hints at Indian heritage, and Zander appears black. The book’s vibrant illustrations include a diverse cast of characters who are compassionate, convincing, and empowered to solve their own problems. Although the language is appropriately simple and clear, it can sometimes feel forced and stilted, particularly in dialogue. Likewise, the plot, though well-intentioned, lacks cohesion.

An appealingly illustrated early reader that’s strong on social message but rather weak on plot. (Early reader. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62014-571-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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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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This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for...

DOG DAYS

From the Carver Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A gentle voice and familiar pitfalls characterize this tale of a boy navigating the risky road to responsibility. 

Gavin is new to his neighborhood and Carver Elementary. He likes his new friend, Richard, and has a typically contentious relationship with his older sister, Danielle. When Gavin’s desire to impress Richard sets off a disastrous chain of events, the boy struggles to evade responsibility for his actions. “After all, it isn’t his fault that Danielle’s snow globe got broken. Sure, he shouldn’t have been in her room—but then, she shouldn’t be keeping candy in her room to tempt him. Anybody would be tempted. Anybody!” opines Gavin once he learns the punishment for his crime. While Gavin has a charming Everyboy quality, and his aversion to Aunt Myrtle’s yapping little dog rings true, little about Gavin distinguishes him from other trouble-prone protagonists. He is, regrettably, forgettable. Coretta Scott King Honor winner English (Francie, 1999) is a teacher whose storytelling usually benefits from her day job. Unfortunately, the pizzazz of classroom chaos is largely absent from this series opener.

This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for subsequent volumes. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-97044-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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