This concluding volume in an interesting concept series is strengthened by colorful characters. (Fiction. 8-11)

SPIT FEATHERS

From the Lobster Chronicles series , Vol. 3

Norris’ obnoxious, bullying behavior makes Ferguson just want to “spit feathers” in this conclusion to the Lobster Chronicles trilogy.

Problems with Norris aren’t the whole story however. Geared for emerging chapter-book readers, like the preceding two works (Lower the Trap, 2012; A Narrow Escape, 2013), the same tale is presented again from yet another point of view. While the other two were more focused on Norris’ effect on his classmates, in this story, his cheating and bullying recede against sensitive Ferguson’s struggle to discover anything that could provide his beloved grandfather with a legacy of his life as a lobsterman. That a giant lobster has been trapped and will be auctioned to the highest bidder is still an important piece of this book’s plot. Ferguson thinks that winning and then freeing the lobster might provide a legacy for his grandfather, but, satisfyingly, the older man has a better plan. Readers will recognize that in his worries about his grandfather, Ferguson seems to have unfortunately distanced himself from both his siblings and his peers. Since his classmates are only tangentially involved in this effort, references to issues that previously dominated the shared tale now seem somewhat superfluous. Although this effort could stand alone, Norris’ redemptive behavior at the climax can only be understood by reading the rest of the trilogy.

This concluding volume in an interesting concept series is strengthened by colorful characters. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55453-708-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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

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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A moving exploration of the places we come from and the people who shape us—not to be missed.

SOME PLACES MORE THAN OTHERS

On a birthday trip to New York City, a girl learns about her roots, Harlem, and how to stay true to herself.

Eleven-year-old sneakerhead Amara is struggling to feel seen and heard. A new baby sister is on the way, her mom still wants to put her in dresses, and that birthday trip from the Portland, Oregon, suburbs to New York City that she so desperately wants feels out of reach. When Amara gets a family-history assignment, she is finally able to convince her mom to say yes to the trip, since it will allow Amara to meet her dad’s side of the family in person. In addition to the school project, her mom gives Amara a secret mission: get her dad and grandpa to spend time alone together to repair old wounds. Harlem proves unlike any place Amara has ever been, and as she explores where her father grew up she experiences black history on every street. Watson is a master at character development, with New York City and especially Harlem playing central roles. Through her all-black cast she seamlessly explores issues of identity, self, and family acceptance. Although the ending feels rushed, with no resolution between Amara and her mom, Amara’s concluding poem is powerful.

A moving exploration of the places we come from and the people who shape us—not to be missed. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68119-108-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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