This one’s for dog lovers

POPPY

From the American Dog series

A shy transplant from Michigan to California finds her footing when her neighbor’s pit bull needs training.

Hannah, a white girl with a facial birthmark, is miserable in California. Her parents, overwhelmed with new jobs and Hannah’s younger siblings, never have time for her anymore. Hannah misses her Michigan friends, too. How can she possibly make new friends when she’s so embarrassed about her birthmark and the California kids are all spending this summer before sixth grade surfing? It turns out there’s something to love in California after all, though: her elderly neighbor’s rescue pit bull puppy, Poppy. Hannah eagerly offers to take on Poppy’s training, which is how she learns that many people prejudge pit bulls unfairly as violent; the analogies between judgments of Poppy for her pit-bull build and Hannah for her birthmark are strained but mostly unobtrusive. Through the process of training Poppy, Hannah slowly gains faith in herself, if only because her lack of confidence means the dog can’t learn. She makes friends, learns to surf (with Poppy!), and loses her crushing self-loathing. All of her forward movement—and her personal setbacks—are framed in the little victories and crises of Poppy’s education. The timespan of dog training is compressed down to simplified weeks, but the principles are solid. Brave, another in this dog-oriented series, publishes simultaneously, bringing together a canine hurricane survivor and a white boy whose father is deployed in the Middle East.

This one’s for dog lovers . (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-10869-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.

HORRIBLE HARRY SAYS GOODBYE

From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A long-running series reaches its closing chapters.

Having, as Kline notes in her warm valedictory acknowledgements, taken 30 years to get through second and third grade, Harry Spooger is overdue to move on—but not just into fourth grade, it turns out, as his family is moving to another town as soon as the school year ends. The news leaves his best friend, narrator “Dougo,” devastated…particularly as Harry doesn’t seem all that fussed about it. With series fans in mind, the author takes Harry through a sort of last-day-of-school farewell tour. From his desk he pulls a burned hot dog and other items that featured in past episodes, says goodbye to Song Lee and other classmates, and even (for the first time ever) leads Doug and readers into his house and memento-strewn room for further reminiscing. Of course, Harry isn’t as blasé about the move as he pretends, and eyes aren’t exactly dry when he departs. But hardly is he out of sight before Doug is meeting Mohammad, a new neighbor from Syria who (along with further diversifying a cast that began as mostly white but has become increasingly multiethnic over the years) will also be starting fourth grade at summer’s end, and planning a written account of his “horrible” buddy’s exploits. Finished illustrations not seen.

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47963-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic.

STICKS AND STONES

Veteran picture-book creator Polacco tells another story from her childhood that celebrates the importance of staying true to one’s own interests and values.

After years of spending summers with her father and grandmother, narrator Trisha is excited to be spending the school year in Michigan with them. Unexpectedly abandoned by her summertime friends, Trisha quickly connects with fellow outsiders Thom and Ravanne, who may be familiar to readers from Polacco’s The Junkyard Wonders (2010). Throughout the school year, the three enjoy activities together and do their best to avoid school bully Billy. While a physical confrontation between Thom (aka “Sissy Boy”) and Billy does come, so does an opportunity for Thom to defy convention and share his talent with the community. Loosely sketched watercolor illustrations place the story in the middle of the last century, with somewhat old-fashioned clothing and an apparently all-White community. Trisha and her classmates appear to be what today would be called middle schoolers; a reference to something Trisha and her mom did when she was “only eight” suggests that several years have passed since that time. As usual, the lengthy first-person narrative is cozily conversational but includes some challenging vocabulary (textiles, lackeys, foretold). The author’s note provides a brief update about her friends’ careers and encourages readers to embrace their own differences. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2622-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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