MISSION IMPAWSIBLE

A MIDDLE SCHOOL STORY

From the Dog Diaries series , Vol. 3

That large, unruly dog Junior is back for a third funny outing, this time getting left behind at a posh but sadly vegetarian dog kennel when his family goes on vacation.

Just as soon as Junior overhears the plans for a family vacation in Hollywood, he begins to make his own preparations, vividly imagining a place where all the “streets are paved with sausage meat” and where, of course, he’ll quickly be discovered as a superstar. He and his doggy friends are crushed to later find that their families’ vacation plans don’t include them. Initially, Barking Meadows, with its spa treatments and cushion-filled kennel, seems to offer a fine alternative—until the dogs discover that the vegetarian food is, well, made of vegetables! What dog wants to eat celery and broccoli frittata? Desperate for a proper meal, a determined Junior takes it upon himself to lead the escape attempts. As usual, this exuberant canine has plenty of harebrained schemes, bringing just enough intelligence to bear to create laugh-out-loud situations. This action-driven book offers little character development, but it hardly matters since it’s all about the silliness, including a pinch of bathroom humor, just right for the audience. Large, clear print and plentiful illustrations make this a fine choice for transitioning readers with funny bones to tickle. Watson depicts Junior’s family as white, but some secondary human characters are people of color.

Another doggie delight. (Fantasy. 6-9)

Pub Date: March 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-49447-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for...

DOG DAYS

From the Carver Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A gentle voice and familiar pitfalls characterize this tale of a boy navigating the risky road to responsibility. 

Gavin is new to his neighborhood and Carver Elementary. He likes his new friend, Richard, and has a typically contentious relationship with his older sister, Danielle. When Gavin’s desire to impress Richard sets off a disastrous chain of events, the boy struggles to evade responsibility for his actions. “After all, it isn’t his fault that Danielle’s snow globe got broken. Sure, he shouldn’t have been in her room—but then, she shouldn’t be keeping candy in her room to tempt him. Anybody would be tempted. Anybody!” opines Gavin once he learns the punishment for his crime. While Gavin has a charming Everyboy quality, and his aversion to Aunt Myrtle’s yapping little dog rings true, little about Gavin distinguishes him from other trouble-prone protagonists. He is, regrettably, forgettable. Coretta Scott King Honor winner English (Francie, 1999) is a teacher whose storytelling usually benefits from her day job. Unfortunately, the pizzazz of classroom chaos is largely absent from this series opener.

This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for subsequent volumes. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-97044-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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