Exceptionally funny.



From the Pepper Party series , Vol. 2

Perfectionist Maria Pepper’s wacky family interferes with her mascot ambitions in this simultaneously released sequel to The Pepper Party Picks the Perfect Pet (2019).

Supertidy Maria (an oddball in her family) is the kind of go-getter who lives her life by her favorite book: How to Make Friends, Influence People, and Crush Your Enemies into Dust. Her next step on the path to greatness is winning the school contest to get to be school mascot, the San Pimento Olive. But she’s surprised by stiff competition, which comes in the form of Darren Dill IV, an uber-rich new kid who ups the stakes by giving away free ice cream. Their contest takes comedic forms (including a rap battle featuring 12-year-old Ricky Pepper versus Darren’s butler, Crinklebottom, a DJ, Y’allTube celeb, and lawyer) and culminates in the actual tryouts. Darren unexpectedly offers friendship right before her family (in attempts to help her) causes their biggest disaster yet in front of the whole school (and on camera). Pushed too far, Maria quits her family. Darren takes her in, offering her Crinklebottom’s services to divorce them, just as he’d done with his own family. It’s up to the Peppers to uncover Darren’s true agenda, creating a climax that uses funny takes on sinister imagery to reach new heights of hilarity and bring forth familial reconciliations. The main characters all have light skin, some Peppers lighter than others, with the unfortunate result that the rap battle is waged by apparently all-white combatants.

Exceptionally funny. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: May 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-29704-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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In all, it's an unsuccessful follow-up to Weeks' Pie (2011), but word-loving Melody is appealing, and her appended list of...


Melody Bishop's peaceful life with her widower father is upset when the annoying 6-year-old next door comes home from the beauty parlor with some gossip.

The 10-year-old has already noticed her father's increased distraction and a new tendency to whistle, so when Teeny Nelson reports that "Henry's been bitten by the love bug," Melody is avid to know more. With her best friend, biracial Nick Woo, at her side, she goes to the Bee Hive beauty salon to investigate. What she discovers there rocks her world not once but twice, as salon owner Bee-Bee has information about Melody's mother, who died in childbirth and about whom her father never speaks. Weeks gets the small moments right: Melody's exasperation with Teeny and the way it turns to sympathy when the little girl's mother threatens a spanking; her affectionate resignation when her grandfather, who has emphysema, sneaks out to the garage for a smoke. And Melody's close relationship with her loving father is sweetly evoked. But other elements fail to cohere. Obvious misdirection leads Melody to a critical misunderstanding that never amounts to more than a plot contrivance, and the mystical visions of Bee-Bee's dog, Mo, who has an unknown connection to Melody, strain credulity.

In all, it's an unsuccessful follow-up to Weeks' Pie (2011), but word-loving Melody is appealing, and her appended list of nail-polish colors is somewhat amusing. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-46557-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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


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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