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From the Greetings from Somewhere series , Vol. 1

Not terribly remarkable, but the series has lots of growing room.

Second-grade twins prepare to leave the country, but not without first solving a time-sensitive mystery.

Ella and Ethan Briar are devastated by their parents’ announcement that the family is leaving their beloved hometown. Mrs. Briar has accepted a new job as a travel writer, a job that will send the family to new places all over the globe on a weekly basis. In an attempt to soothe the twins’ unhappiness about the move (“What about school? And soccer?” they ask), their grandfather—a retired, globe-trotting archaeologist himself—gives each a special gift for their travels. Mystery-writing Ella gets a journal; Ethan gets a special gold coin. On their last morning in town, Ethan realizes that his gold coin is missing—and they only have a few hours before they have to leave for the airport. While their grandfather does their chores, the twins methodically determine when Ethan last had the coin—the previous day—and make a list of places he visited to retrace his steps. This allows the twins to say goodbye to friendly faces throughout the town. This series-launching installment’s light on mystery, but it’s welcoming and accessible through expressive, frequent illustrations. The Mystery of the Mosaic, publishing simultaneously, takes the kids to Venice for their first overseas adventure.

Not terribly remarkable, but the series has lots of growing room. (Mystery. 5-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9719-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2014

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From the Fiercely and Friends series , Vol. 1

A disappointment from a noted writer in an era when outstanding early readers abound.

The Big Something doesn’t end up amounting to much in this lackluster beginning reader.

As the first in the planned Fiercely and Friends series, the text amounts to more exposition than narrative substance. Jilli’s dog Fiercely digs a hole under a fence, and though she frets that he is “digging straight down to China” he ends up in the neighboring yard. Peeping through a hole in the fence, Jilli and Jim (children will ask whether he's her friend or her brother—the text is unclear) see workers “building a Big Red Something.” Also in the next yard is a mysterious woman wearing a witch’s hat and standing on a ladder to paint ice-cream cones and gumdrops on the structure’s walls, making it akin to the witch’s house in "Hansel and Gretel." Curious, Jilli and Jim go to a shed to don disguises (and pause to eat gummy bears stuck to its floor). Then they use a gummy bear to entice Fiercely to return, which provokes the painting woman to come talk with them. Lo and behold, she isn’t a witch, but Ms. Berry, “the nicest teacher.” She tells the children that The Big Red Something is a “new school” and they follow her into the yard to help her paint. Palmisciano’s watercolor illustrations visually describe the text but stop short of adding engaging detail or expansion.

A disappointment from a noted writer in an era when outstanding early readers abound. (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-24459-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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From the Q & Ray series , Vol. 3

Not perfect but a pleasant-enough caper that bridges a gap between leveled readers and chapter books.

A hedgehog and rat solve a gentle whodunit.

Quillan, a tawny-hued hedgehog who goes by Q, and Ray, a chocolate-colored rat, return for their third graphic-novel mystery. Inspired by famous women ballplayers, Q has joined the Loons baseball team and is anticipating a fun season practicing catching. Ray, however, is more interested in indoor pursuits, sharing his recent reading about forgery and fakes. This information comes in handy as the pair soon discovers that a valuable signed baseball has been stolen and a forgery left in its place. Stephen Shaskan’s panels are large and bright, focusing on the prominently displayed characters alongside uniformly stylized and easy-to-read speech bubbles. As they are constructed with blocky outlines and solid colors lacking detail, readers may find it difficult to discern exactly which mammals they are intended to depict. Although a stand-alone mystery, this new case does not rehash necessary details explained in earlier installments, which may be perplexing to series newcomers. Those familiar with the series, on the other hand, may notice that this volume follows an almost identical investigational path as its predecessor, reinforcing mystery conventions for young readers but perhaps causing more-seasoned ones to feel it is stale. This affable mystery is probably best for younger readers looking for more of a challenge than leveled readers provide.

Not perfect but a pleasant-enough caper that bridges a gap between leveled readers and chapter books. (Graphic mystery. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5415-2644-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Graphic Universe

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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