A pleasant twist on a sturdy franchise.

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DIARY OF AN AWESOME FRIENDLY KID

ROWLEY JEFFERSON'S JOURNAL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series

The wimpy kid’s best friend tells his side of the story.

After 13 volumes documenting events from Greg Heffley’s perspective, Rowley Jefferson takes a turn. The result is oddly refreshing: Greg’s unreliable narration gives readers plenty to chuckle at, but Rowley’s brutal honesty supplies fans of the series an unblinking look at their favorite protagonist. Greg’s jerk-y behavior that always lurked beneath the surface emerges fully here, coming dangerously close to ruining the character. Kinney uses this perspective shift to explore Greg’s behavior from the outside but through the eyes of his best friend, and that distinction is important. Rowley has cleareyed faith in his friend despite his father’s disapproval and nudges to make a better one. This faith is tested during a difficult sleepover and an exasperating study session but rewarded in the end. The Wimpy Kid books have never been heavy on plot, instead emphasizing character and gags. The gags in this volume are serviceable, but the character work is terrific. The fact that Kinney can expose new facets of his characters this deep into the series is a credit to the property. Underneath the marketing, the movies, the bookmarks, and the merchandise, the Wimpy Kid books are about a couple of pals figuring themselves out.

A pleasant twist on a sturdy franchise. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4027-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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Sweetly low-key and totally accessible.

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THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER

Billy Miller’s second-grade year is quietly spectacular in a wonderfully ordinary way.

Billy’s year begins with his worry over the lump on his head, a souvenir of a dramatic summer fall onto concrete: Will he be up to the challenges his new teacher promises in her letter to students? Quickly overshadowing that worry, however, is a diplomatic crisis over whether he has somehow offended Ms. Silver on the first day of school. Four sections—Teacher, Father, Sister and Mother—offer different and essential focal points for Billy’s life, allowing both him and readers to explore several varieties of creative endeavor, small adventures, and, especially, both challenges and successful problem-solving. The wonderfully self-possessed Sal, his 3-year-old sister, is to Billy much as Ramona is to Beezus, but without the same level of tension. Her pillowcase full of the plush yellow whales she calls the Drop Sisters (Raindrop, Gumdrop, etc.) is a memorable prop. Henkes offers what he so often does in these longer works for children: a sense that experiences don’t have to be extraordinary to be important and dramatic. Billy’s slightly dreamy interior life isn’t filled with either angst or boisterous silliness—rather, the moments that appear in these stories are clarifying bits of the universal larger puzzle of growing up, changing and understanding the world. Small, precise black-and-white drawings punctuate and decorate the pages.

Sweetly low-key and totally accessible. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-226812-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE

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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