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Readers with a sibling will laugh, ruefully; those without will feel both regret and relief at what they’re missing.

In this Portuguese import, an exasperated child writes a decidedly unsentimental—and amusing—letter to her little sister.

The narrator is sure that her younger sibling must have come from outer space, rejected as too annoying by her fellow aliens. Big sis views her sibling as an overly talkative, ungrateful, destructive vandal, prone to putting stickers everywhere—even on the family cat. The letter writer does have some tender memories, such as getting to name her sister and giving her hand-me-downs. But when provoked, she swears she’ll never speak to her sibling again. “But later I forgot.” Although their interactions are sometimes violent (once costing the little sister a tooth), the narrator eventually realizes that she and her sister are more like each other than not, and she finally understands that sisters are not the same as friends: “It’s not better or worse…just different.” Estrela captures the intricacies of the sibling bond: Whether they’re fighting or playing, these two are there for each other. The illustrations make the letter format feel genuine; the bold outlines are several steps up from stick figures, but not out of the realm of child art. And though the occasional drawing feels a bit more sophisticated, several pages look authentically adorned with the scribbles supposedly left by the sibling. Characters have skin the color of the page.

Readers with a sibling will laugh, ruefully; those without will feel both regret and relief at what they’re missing. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 12, 2024

ISBN: 9781459837522

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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Cuándo quieras un perro feliz, look no further.

A young Latine boy finally gets to rescue the dog of his dreams, but training can be a challenge in two languages.

Like many children, José has been dreaming of having a pet of his own, specifically un perro, a dog. Like any good owner, José promptly begins training his new canine companion but soon realizes his rescue mutt, Feliz, knows only words in English. This is a problem because in José’s home everyone speaks both Spanish and English. José and Feliz must rise to the challenge; fortunately, treats and snuggles are great motivators. The narrative uses Spanish words and phrases throughout (“perros blancos,” “¡Yo quiero este!” “¡Sientate!”), usually with English context clues for understanding. This is complex vocabulary for an early reader, and the shifting in phonics from English to Spanish will be challenging for true beginners; the book is best suited for intermediate to advanced readers in dual-language classrooms or homes. Much like Feliz, however, it is sure to find a loving (and bilingual) home. Cheerful illustrations complement the text, helping readers make sense of the narrative. While José and his mother are darker-skinned, his father and sister are lighter-skinned. (This review has been updated for accuracy.)

Cuándo quieras un perro feliz, look no further. (glossary of Spanish-English words) (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-593-52116-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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