OH NO, NOAH!

Hurwitz’s (Russell’s Secret, 2001, etc.) latest warm slice of family life explores another milestone: moving to a new neighborhood. Accident-prone, eight-year-old Noah has just moved and has to make friends and figure out a way to fit in. First, he meets Mo, the nosy and energetic girl next door who helps him meet the other children in her circle. The remarkable thing about these children is that each of them has a special talent: Andy can whistle shrilly, Jessica can read while standing on her head, and Mo can juggle. The pressure is on! Noah’s only claim to fame is that his family is the owner of a bizarre, stuffed deer head. It was a gift from Noah’s father’s boss and is tucked away in their new basement. Mo and her friends concoct an elaborate plan that involves burying the head and having a funeral. Noah reluctantly agrees, figuring it would make him part of the group. Of course, things don’t always turn out the way an eight-year-old boy might plan. Hurwitz builds the suspense nicely, and, though everything does turn out well in the end, Noah learns some important lessons about peer pressure and self-reliance. Unremarkable illustrations accompany each chapter. The predictable storyline, punctuated by believable surprises and realistic dialogue, makes this a winner for readers ready for the challenges of a longer chapter book. The generous font, comfortable size, and familiar story make this a fine addition to a growing list of good choices for new readers. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-58717-133-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: SeaStar/North-South

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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Sweetly low-key and totally accessible.

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THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER

Billy Miller’s second-grade year is quietly spectacular in a wonderfully ordinary way.

Billy’s year begins with his worry over the lump on his head, a souvenir of a dramatic summer fall onto concrete: Will he be up to the challenges his new teacher promises in her letter to students? Quickly overshadowing that worry, however, is a diplomatic crisis over whether he has somehow offended Ms. Silver on the first day of school. Four sections—Teacher, Father, Sister and Mother—offer different and essential focal points for Billy’s life, allowing both him and readers to explore several varieties of creative endeavor, small adventures, and, especially, both challenges and successful problem-solving. The wonderfully self-possessed Sal, his 3-year-old sister, is to Billy much as Ramona is to Beezus, but without the same level of tension. Her pillowcase full of the plush yellow whales she calls the Drop Sisters (Raindrop, Gumdrop, etc.) is a memorable prop. Henkes offers what he so often does in these longer works for children: a sense that experiences don’t have to be extraordinary to be important and dramatic. Billy’s slightly dreamy interior life isn’t filled with either angst or boisterous silliness—rather, the moments that appear in these stories are clarifying bits of the universal larger puzzle of growing up, changing and understanding the world. Small, precise black-and-white drawings punctuate and decorate the pages.

Sweetly low-key and totally accessible. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-226812-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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THE RECESS QUEEN

Positing that bullies only act that way because they’re lonely, O’Neill (Loud Emily, 1998) puts seemingly meek, new classmate Katie Sue up against aggressive Mean Jean, swaggering boss of the playground. Knowing but one way to deal with challengers (“she’d push ’em and smoosh ’em, / lollapaloosh ’em, / hammer ’em, slammer ’em, / kitz and kajammer ’em . . .”), Mean Jean roughly tries to set Katie Sue straight on the pecking order. But Katie Sue stands up to her with a cheeky, “How DID you get to be so bossy?” and pulls out a jump rope, inviting Mean Jean to jump along. Presto change-o, a friendship is born. Huliska-Beith’s (The Book of Bad Ideas, 2000, etc.) rubbery-limbed figures, rolling perspectives, and neon-bright colors reflect the text’s informality as well as its frenzied energy. Though the suggested strategy works far more easily here than it would in real life, young readers will be caught up by Katie Sue’s engaging, fizzy exuberance. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-20637-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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