RETURN TO THE WILLOWS

Funny and warm, this could tempt a new generation toward the raptures of “messing about in boats.” (Animal fantasy. 6-10)

Writing a sequel to such a beloved classic is almost as bold a move as Toad stealing a motor-car, but happily, Kelly’s results warrant accolades rather than a trip to gaol.

The Mole, Water Rat, Toad and Badger are comfortingly recognizable in this charming pastoral with adventures. Mole and Rat adore their bucolic River, and wealthy Toad tools around in a hot-air balloon (a hilarious metaphor for his blustery boastfulness) until a head injury renders him an Oxford-and-Cambridge–courted genius. This new Toad studies “hard data” on the woodchuck-chucking question and publishes “Jam Side Down: A Discourse on the Physics of Falling Toast.” While Toad’s at Cambridge serving as Lumbago Endowed Chair of Extremely Abstruse Knowledge, his nephew Humphrey goes unsupervised at Toad Hall. Firecracker explosions, a kidnapping and a war with weasels and stoats—including a Trojan Horse–like birthday cake—supply action; the Mole’s dedication to his dear Ratty supplies heart. New bits include a savvy female character and footnotes that alternate in tone between amusing and lecturing (and are hit or miss in their effectiveness). Lower-class bad guys and a gypsy costume are outdated stereotypes, if true to the period of the original. Literary references range delightfully from Shakespeare to Jane Austen to a tender closing page where Mole reads to Ratty’s child (imagine!) a book that’s clearly The Wind in the Willows.

Funny and warm, this could tempt a new generation toward the raptures of “messing about in boats.” (Animal fantasy. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9413-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

HORRIBLE HARRY SAYS GOODBYE

From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.

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. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

BEATRICE ZINKER, UPSIDE DOWN THINKER

From the Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker series , Vol. 1

A kind child in a book for middle-grade readers? There’s no downside to that.

Beatrice Zinker is a kinder, gentler Judy Moody.

Beatrice doesn’t want to be fit in a box. Her first word was “WOW,” not “Mom.” She does her best thinking upside down and prefers to dress like a ninja. Like Judy Moody, she has patient parents and a somewhat annoying younger brother. (She also has a perfectly ordinary older sister.) Beatrice spends all summer planning a top-secret spy operation complete with secret codes and a secret language (pig Latin). But on the first day of third grade, her best friend, Lenny (short for Eleanor), shows up in a dress, with a new friend who wants to play veterinarian at recess. Beatrice, essentially a kind if somewhat quirky kid, struggles to see the upside of the situation and ends up with two friends instead of one. Line drawings on almost every spread add to the humor and make the book accessible to readers who might otherwise balk at its 160 pages. Thankfully, the rhymes in the text do not continue past the first chapter. Children will enjoy the frequent puns and Beatrice’s preference for climbing trees and hanging upside down. The story drifts dangerously close to pedantry when Beatrice asks for advice from a grandmotherly neighbor but is saved by likable characters and upside-down cake. Beatrice seems to be white; Lenny’s surname, Santos, suggests that she may be Latina; their school is a diverse one.

A kind child in a book for middle-grade readers? There’s no downside to that. (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-6738-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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