The very best easy readers also succeed as picture books or read-alone fiction that a child would choose to read as an entertaining story rather than an educational exercise. Little and Plecas achieve that unusual status with their second collaboration about Emma (Emma's Magic Winter, 1998), a shy little girl with an African-American best friend, Sally, who lives next door with her little brother, Josh. Emma's family is adopting a four-year-old boy named Max, and Emma has unrealistic big-sister ideas that don't correspond to the angry little boy who grabs the cookies and breaks her doll. Max takes an immediate shine to Emma's friend Sally, who knows how to talk to four-year-olds, and over time Sally helps Emma learn how to be a big sister. Gradually (and skillfully), Little shows how both Max and Emma accept the new situation, all the while illustrating the difficult feelings experienced by all members of a family in the midst of the adoption transition. She works in quite a bit of information about the process, including mention of social-worker visits, transitional visits by the adoptee, and the purpose of foster families. Her understated dialogue and simple but effective plot incidents are the work of an accomplished pro who clearly has mastered the dictum of "show, don't tell." Appealing watercolor-and-ink illustrations by Plecas perfectly complement this longer I Can Read book, which is divided into short chapters for readers prepared for a more extended story that still uses controlled vocabulary. A first choice for most libraries and an excellent book to recommend to families with adopted or foster children. (Easy reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-028348-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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This vibrant, thoughtful book from Katz (Over the Moon, 1997) continues her tribute to her adopted daughter, Lena, born in Guatemala. Lena is “seven. I am the color of cinnamon. Mom says she could eat me up”; she learns during a painting lesson that to get the color brown, she will have to “mix red, yellow, black, and white paints.” They go for a walk to observe the many shades of brown: they see Sonia, who is the color of creamy peanut butter; Isabella, who is chocolate brown; Lucy, both peachy and tan; Jo-Jin, the color of honey; Kyle, “like leaves in fall”; Mr. Pellegrino, the color of pizza crust, golden brown. Lena realizes that every shade is beautiful, then mixes her paints accordingly for portraits of her friends—“The colors of us!” Bold illustrations celebrate diversity with a child’s open-hearted sensibility and a mother’s love. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-5864-8

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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Small, saucy Martha is not a child to put in pink. She wears black-and-white, highly graphic dresses, including one long-sleeved number with a bull’s-eye on the belly. She has mastered the management of her boring goldfish, somnolent cat, and clueless dog, and she opines that it is high time to acquire a large, ugly monster. Forthwith, she marches out with her piggy-bank. The nearest pet shop stocks only small monsters, but one green fellow has an pleasingly awful grin. It’s a done deal: “Keep the pig,” Martha says as she exits with her purchase. Martha knows that the monster eats only wood, but she doesn’t know that twigs will be followed by branches, planks from the dog’s dismantled kennel, her bed legs, and her bottom drawer. As the monster grows, so does its appetite, until the only place left to put it is in the wardrobe—which it promptly eats. Enough is enough for Martha, but the pet shop man offers only exchanges; against his advice, Martha selects an egg with green and purple splotches. As the original monster gets pushed out the back door, readers will delight in the dreadful possibilities inherent in this twist. It’s a romp of a tale to read aloud, with a tongue-in-cheek text; the vigorous pictures more than support and extend this illustrious excursion into the consequences of pet ownership. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 1999

ISBN: 1-57505-414-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lerner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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