Nothing to write home about.

MY TEACHER IS AN IDIOM

Confusion about idioms plus rudeness in the cafeteria equals unpleasant consequences for second-graders Patrick and Richard.

Prankster Patrick loves nothing more than a good joke. Richard is determined that Patrick will never get him in trouble with his joking again. It’s Mind Your Manners Month at school, and the cafeteria is a challenging place to stay out of trouble. When Patrick and Richard decide to suck red Jell-O up a straw and pretend to be vampires, they end up freaking out Sophie, the new student from France, who thinks she is seeing blood. Mr. E., the vice principal, gets doused in “blood.” The boys are busted for having such horrible manners, but things get a little more complicated when Sophie tells the boys they are stupid. “I call a cat a cat,” she declares. Thus begins the running joke of the book: French idioms are different from American ones. When Sophie “makes white cabbage,” it takes a bit of work for the boys to understand she is drawing a blank. Readers will enjoy trying to untangle Sophie’s idiomatic speech and will be glad to see both boys pay their debts. Neither boy is particularly likable, however, and Patrick’s father—who encourages his son’s naughtiness—is especially unpleasant. One unfortunate running gag—Mr. E. is mocked for his enormous stash of size XXXXL T-shirts—does not play out in the illustrations, in which his size is depicted as unremarkable.

Nothing to write home about. (Fiction. 7-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-05680-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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A nice and timely depiction of an immigrant child experience.

STELLA DÍAZ HAS SOMETHING TO SAY

From the Stella Díaz series , Vol. 1

Speaking up is hard when you’re shy, and it can be even harder if you’ve got two languages in your head.

Third-grader Estrella “Stella” Díaz, is a shy, Mexican-American girl who draws pictures and loves fish, and she lives in Chicago with her mother and older brother, Nick. Jenny, Stella’s best friend, isn’t in her class this year, and Stella feels lonely—especially when she sees that Vietnamese-American Jenny is making new friends. When a new student, Stanley Mason, arrives in her class, Stella introduces herself in Spanish to the white former Texan without realizing it and becomes embarrassed. Surely Stanley won’t want to befriend her after that—but he seems to anyway. Stella often confuses the pronunciation between English and Spanish sounds and takes speech classes. As an immigrant with a green card—a “legal alien,” according to her teacher—Stella feels that she doesn’t fully belong to either American culture or Mexican culture, and this is nicely reflected in her not being fully comfortable in either language, an experience familiar to many immigrant and first-generation children. This early-middle-grade book features italicized Spanish words and phrases with direct translations right after. There is a small subplot about bullying from Stella’s classmate, and readers will cheer as they see how, with the help of her friends and family, Stella overcomes her shyness and gives a presentation on Jacques Cousteau. Dominguez’s friendly black-and-white drawings grace most pages.

A nice and timely depiction of an immigrant child experience. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62672-858-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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Heartening and hopeful, a love letter to black male youth grasping the desires within them, absorbing the worlds around...

THE SEASON OF STYX MALONE

Cooler-than-cool newcomer Styx Malone takes the more-sheltered brothers Caleb and Bobby Gene on a mischievous, path-altering, summer adventure of a lifetime as they embrace the extraordinary possibilities beyond the everyday in rural Indiana.

Readers may think an adventure such as they’ll find here wouldn’t be possible in the present day; this story takes place outside, where nature, know-how, creativity, and curiosity rule. Creeks, dirt roads, buried treasures, and more make up the landscape in Sutton, Indiana. Younger brother Caleb narrates, letting readers know from the outset that he’s tired of his dad’s racially tinged determination that they be safely ordinary: “I don’t want to be ordinary. I want to be…the other thing.” With Styx Malone around, Caleb and Bobby Gene will sure figure out what that “other thing” can become. The three black adolescents are enchanted with the miracle of the Great Escalator Trade, the mythic one-thing-leads-to-another bartering scheme that just might get them farther from Sutton than they’ve ever dreamed. As they get deeper and deeper into cahoots with Styx, they begin to notice that Styx harbors some secret ambitions of his own, further twisting this grand summer journey. “How do you move through the world knowing that you’re special, when no one else can see it?” begs the soul of this novel.

Heartening and hopeful, a love letter to black male youth grasping the desires within them, absorbing the worlds around them, striving to be more otherwise than ordinary. Please share. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1595-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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