Sixth in a winning series set in Oahu, Hawaii, this latest about 9-year-old Calvin spins a new twist about his struggle with the island bully that will leave readers satisfied with its auspicious, though imperfect, resolution.
From the moment newcomer Benny Obi enters their classroom, Calvin and his friends recognize that he’s a bit of an oddball. Wearing a skull necklace and mirror shades, he approaches them on the playground and boasts about some accomplishments that seem rather unlikely, including knowing kung fu and having seen a show in Las Vegas performed by Calvin’s absentee dad, a singer. They’re dubious about Benny’s claims, but they find him fascinating and are dismayed when bully Tito begins targeting him. Salisbury’s established characters have achieved a comfortable familiarity, both because the author allows details about their personalities to emerge naturally throughout the series and because the dialogue and dynamics at play are so realistic. Calvin’s first-person voice and his internal process as he strives to do the right thing are engaging and believable. Rogers’ black-and-white ink-and-wash drawings are full of movement and mood, from broadly smiling insects to the formidable glower of Stella, the teenage friend of the family with whom Calvin has a strained, but caring sort-of-sibling relationship.
This newest continues to spin a fun and thoughtful yarn. (Fiction. 7-10)