I AM NOT A NUMBER

A moving glimpse into a not-very-long-past injustice.

When the Indian agent comes for Irene and her brothers, their parents reluctantly give them up to be taken to one of Canada’s infamous residential schools.

At the school, Irene is separated from her brothers, scrubbed, shorn, and assigned a number: 759. When she and another girl exchange words in Ojibwa, a nun punishes Irene for speaking “the devil’s language.” The punishment is horrifying: she is made to hold a bedpan filled with hot coals. The year passes slowly, chapel preferable to chores and lessons, especially as she can see her brothers there. At home the next summer, Irene tells her father, the community’s chief, about the “lessons” taught at “that horrible place”—and when the Indian agent comes again in the fall, the children hide while he tells the agent, “You will NEVER. TAKE MY CHILDREN. AWAY. AGAIN!” By the time readers get to this place in the story, they will have gotten past the stiff beginning and occasional overwriting and will be as relieved as Irene at their rescue. Newland’s watercolors capture the warmth of this Anishinaabe family and the austerity of the boarding school; the scene in which Irene’s father stares down the agent will have children cheering. Dupuis and Kacer base the story on the experiences of Dupuis’ grandmother, and they provide further information on the residential schools in an author’s note.

A moving glimpse into a not-very-long-past injustice. (Picture book. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-927583-94-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Second Story Press

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

HORRIBLE HARRY SAYS GOODBYE

From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

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

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. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

CODY HARMON, KING OF PETS

From the Franklin School Friends series

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading.

When Franklin School principal Mr. Boone announces a pet-show fundraiser, white third-grader Cody—whose lack of skill and interest in academics is matched by keen enthusiasm for and knowledge of animals—discovers his time to shine.

As with other books in this series, the children and adults are believable and well-rounded. Even the dialogue is natural—no small feat for a text easily accessible to intermediate readers. Character growth occurs, organically and believably. Students occasionally, humorously, show annoyance with teachers: “He made mad squinty eyes at Mrs. Molina, which fortunately she didn’t see.” Readers will be kept entertained by Cody’s various problems and the eventual solutions. His problems include needing to raise $10 to enter one of his nine pets in the show (he really wants to enter all of them), his troublesome dog Angus—“a dog who ate homework—actually, who ate everything and then threw up afterward”—struggles with homework, and grappling with his best friend’s apparently uncaring behavior toward a squirrel. Serious values and issues are explored with a light touch. The cheery pencil illustrations show the school’s racially diverse population as well as the memorable image of Mr. Boone wearing an elephant costume. A minor oddity: why does a child so immersed in animal facts call his male chicken a rooster but his female chickens chickens?

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30223-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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