A fine emotional stretch within reach of the intended audience.

THE BELL BANDIT

From the Lemonade War series , Vol. 3

When siblings Jessie and Evan (The Lemonade War, 2007, and The Lemonade Crime, 2011) accompany their mother on the time-honored midwinter holiday visit to their grandmother’s home in the mountains, the changes are alarming.

Fire damage to the house and Grandma’s inability to recognize Evan are as disquieting as the disappearance of the iron bell, hung long ago by their grandmother on Lowell Hill and traditionally rung at the New Year. Davies keeps a tight focus on the children: Points of view switch between Evan, with his empathetic and emotional approach to understanding his world, and Jessie, for whom routine is essential and change a puzzle to be worked out. When Grandma ventures out into the snow just before twilight, it is Evan who realizes the danger and manages to find a way to rescue her. Jessie, determined to solve the mystery of the missing bell, enlists the help of Grandma's young neighbor Maxwell, with his unusual habitual gestures and his surprising ability to solve jigsaw puzzles. She is unprepared, however, for the terror of seeing the neighbor boys preparing a mechanical torture device to tear a live frog to pieces. Each of the siblings brings a personal resilience and heroism to the resolution.

A fine emotional stretch within reach of the intended audience. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-56737-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet!

WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE

Ryan Hart is navigating the fourth grade and all its challenges with determination.

Her mom named her Ryan because it means “king,” and she wanted Ryan to feel powerful every time she heard her name; Ryan knows it means she is a leader. So when changes occur or disaster strikes, budding chef Ryan does her best to find the positive and “make sunshine.” When her dad is laid off from the post office, the family must make adjustments that include moving into a smaller house, selling their car, and changing how they shop for groceries. But Ryan gets to stay at Vernon Elementary, and her mom still finds a way to get her the ingredients she needs to practice new recipes. Her older brother, Ray, can be bossy, but he finds little ways to support her, especially when she is down—as does the whole family. Each episodic chapter confronts Ryan with a situation; intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching, they should be familiar and accessible to readers, as when Ryan fumbles her Easter speech despite careful practice. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and Watson continues to bring visibility to both Portland, Oregon, generally and its Black community specifically, making another wonderful contribution that allows Black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love.

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0056-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A bit disjointed and episodic, but Tristan is a likable companion.

THE DOUGHNUT FIX

From the Doughnut Fix series , Vol. 1

Tristan’s family has always loved living in New York City, but all that is about to change.

Dad announces that they are moving to a dilapidated, purple house on a hill on the outskirts of the very small town of Petersville in upstate New York. Baby sister Zoe is frightened and confused. Jeanine, two years younger than Tristan and a math genius in gifted and talented classes, is appalled and worried about her educational prospects. Tristan is devastated, for he is a city kid through and through. Because they won’t be starting school for several months, their parents tell Jeanine and Tristan they must complete a project. Jeanine selects a complicated scientific and mathematical study that allows her to remain uninvolved with people. Tristan, who loves to cook, like his chef mom, decides to start a business making and selling the supposedly mind-blowing chocolate-cream doughnuts once famous in Petersville but now no longer made. His business plan leads to adventures, new friends, and a sense of acceptance. Tristan is a charmer; he’s earnest, loving, wistful, and practical, and he narrates his own tale without guile. But he is the only character so well defined—next to him, the supporting cast feels flat. The family is described as Jewish early on, but their Judaism is kept well to the background; the people of Petersville are white by default.

A bit disjointed and episodic, but Tristan is a likable companion. (recipes, business plan, acknowledgements) (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5541-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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