A sweet start ripe for more installments

OWEN AND ELEANOR MOVE IN

Faith and friendship are at the heart of Bouwman’s (A Crack in the Sea, 2017, etc.) new chapter-book series.

Eight-year old Eleanor has just moved, against her protestations, into a new duplex with her family. Now she’s suddenly forced to share a room with her older sister, and to top it off, her beloved goldfish, Scrumpy IV, has just bought the farm. Eleanor loves Darth Vader and building. The upstairs of the duplex is home to 7-year-old home-schooler Owen, who loves secret codes and fencing. He has not had much experience making friends, much less ones with so forceful a personality as Eleanor. When Eleanor announces her plan to run away, back to her beloved blue house, in order to bury Scrumpy alongside his predecessors and to take up residence herself in the backyard treehouse, Owen is along for a wild ride. Although the story is brief, Bouwman manages to bring depth to each of the protagonists as the narrative shifts between Owen’s and Eleanor’s perspectives, both wrestling with their choices and values. The particular moral and theological bent of the narrative may limit the audience somewhat—Eleanor’s concerns about losing her home are relieved when she’s reminded that her “real home is always with God”—but the overarching themes of friendship, familial love, and resiliency in the face of change are fairly universal. Brown-skinned Eleanor has a mixed heritage, with a Costa Rican–born father and American-born mother, while Owen presents white.

A sweet start ripe for more installments . (Fiction. 5-9)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5064-3972-3

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Sparkhouse

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

SNOW PLACE LIKE HOME

From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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