Gentle fun that prioritizes its readers’ needs.

A MAGIC SPARK

From the Fairylight Friends series , Vol. 1

Three young fairies have short adventures in this early chapter-book series opener.

Artistic Ruby, speedster Iris, and nurturing Pip go on a fairy school field trip, visiting the Crystal Pool, where each glimpses a hint of their special magic. In the second story, Pip drops by as Ruby bakes a cake (discovering her artistic magic at the decorating stage), with excuses for why he can’t help her with each task—before being comedically cornered into doing the dishes in order to get to eat some. In the third, Iris attempts to fly to space to catch a star—using her speedy magic—before tiring out and using her coat to parachute back to her friends. In the fourth, Iris struggles to find patience as Pip waits for a seed to sprout only for Pip’s plant-magic to kick in big. Finally, the trio plans a surprise party for their teacher to show off their new magic. Short, simple sentences make up the brief narration (never more than three sentences of exposition per page), complemented by short dialogue in speech balloons. The equally simple plotlines are easily digested by emerging independent readers and free of conflict or tension. Full-color art capitalizes on lively, expressive body language for clear, distinct characterization. Ruby and their teacher have dark-brown skin and curly hair; Iris has medium-brown skin and blue hair; Pip’s White.

Gentle fun that prioritizes its readers’ needs. (guide to drawing Ruby, story prompt) (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-59652-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Acorn/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Accessible, reassuring and hopeful.

THE INVISIBLE BOY

This endearing picture book about a timid boy who longs to belong has an agenda but delivers its message with great sensitivity.

Brian wants to join in but is overlooked, even ostracized, by his classmates. Readers first see him alone on the front endpapers, drawing in chalk on the ground. The school scenarios are uncomfortably familiar: High-maintenance children get the teacher’s attention; team captains choose kickball players by popularity and athletic ability; chatter about birthday parties indicates they are not inclusive events. Tender illustrations rendered in glowing hues capture Brian’s isolation deftly; compared to the others and his surroundings, he appears in black and white. What saves Brian is his creativity. As he draws, Brian imagines amazing stories, including a poignant one about a superhero with the power to make friends. When a new boy takes some ribbing, it is Brian who leaves an illustrated note to make him feel better. The boy does not forget this gesture. It only takes one person noticing Brian for the others to see his talents have value; that he has something to contribute. Brian’s colors pop. In the closing endpapers, Brian’s classmates are spread around him on the ground, “wearing” his chalk-drawn wings and capes. Use this to start a discussion: The author includes suggested questions and recommended reading lists for adults and children.

Accessible, reassuring and hopeful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-582-46450-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character

PEDRO, FIRST-GRADE HERO

From the Pedro series , Vol. 1

The creators of the Katie Woo series turn their focus to a peripheral character, first-grader Pedro—Katie’s friend and schoolmate.

Four short chapters—“Pedro Goes Buggy,” “Pedro’s Big Goal,” “Pedro’s Mystery Club,” and “Pedro For President”—highlight a Latino main character surrounded by a superbly diverse cast. At times unsure of himself, Pedro is extremely likable, for he wants to do his best and is a fair friend. He consistently comes out on top, even when his younger brother releases all the bugs he’s captured for a class assignment or when self-assured bully Roddy tries to unite opposition to Pedro’s female opponent (Katie Woo) in the race for first-grade class president. Using a third-person, past-tense narrative voice, Manushkin expands her repertoire by adding a hero comparable to EllRay Jakes. What is refreshing about the book is that for the most part, aside from Roddy’s gender-based bullying, the book overcomes boy-girl stereotypes: girls and boys play soccer, boys and girls run for president, girls and boys hunt for bugs, all setting a progressive standard for chapter books. With mixed-media illustrations featuring colorful bugs, soccer action, a mystery hunt, and a presidential campaign, Lyon’s attention to detail in color and facial expressions complements the story nicely.

This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character . (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5158-0112-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Picture Window Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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