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Dana lives in Harlem in the 1950s and is smart—so smart that she is selected to go to an integrated school. But it means being separated from her best friends. Her godmother insists she go to the new school in her best party dress but the other girls are dressed in skirts with matching sweater sets. Dana misses the “running jive and banter” of her friends and the teacher asks her not to use “ain’t” in school. Her classmates ignore her but she has the gumption to answer the last math problem when no one else can. Although she does well in school, she has no friends and her best friends are never at the corner anymore. The last straw is her teacher’s announcement that she will be visiting each student’s home, and she will begin with Dana. When her teacher arrives, Dana discovers that her godmother and teacher are the best of friends and speak in the familiar language (replete with aints) that she and her friends do. She and her two friends finally talk it out and while they’re playing their favorite game of double Dutch, Dana makes up a verse—‘If you want to say ain’t, So people won’t faint, And laugh and think you’re quaint, Just say it at home.” The wonderfully realistic oil illustrations are reminiscent of the fifties (all of the girls wear skirts-even when jumping rope) but are static and posed. The verso title page includes a quote from The Trouble They Seen: Black People Tell the Story of Reconstruction wherein a Louisiana freedman says that his children should be educated so they can read to him and, since he trusts them, he will know it’s true. Educators will find this useful for experiencing an historic time not often seen in books for this age level. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-57091-381-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2003

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Trickling, bubbling, swirling, rushing, a river flows down from its mountain beginnings, past peaceful country and bustling city on its way to the sea. Hooper (The Drop in My Drink, 1998, etc.) artfully evokes the water’s changing character as it transforms from “milky-cold / rattling-bold” to a wide, slow “sliding past mudflats / looping through marshes” to the end of its journey. Willey, best known for illustrating Geraldine McCaughrean’s spectacular folk-tale collections, contributes finely detailed scenes crafted in shimmering, intricate blues and greens, capturing mountain’s chill, the bucolic serenity of passing pastures, and a sense of mystery in the water’s shadowy depths. Though Hooper refers to “the cans and cartons / and bits of old wood” being swept along, there’s no direct conservation agenda here (for that, see Debby Atwell’s River, 1999), just appreciation for the river’s beauty and being. (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7636-0792-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

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From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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