Though a little dryer than in the first book, this duo's opinionated banter still packs a rib-tickling punch. (Animal...

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FRIENDS: SNAKE AND LIZARD

From the Snake and Lizard series , Vol. 2

Here's to the continuation of one unlikely friendship.

In this New Zealand import, sequel to Snake and Lizard (2008), the reptilian buddies become impromptu advisors to their colorful, desert community (Snake and Lizard, Helper and Helper). The pair's natural instincts and sensitive egos can get in the way of their relationship—it doesn’t help that Snake’s sibling devours lizards for lunch or that Lizard's haughty demands pick apart Snake's poor manners. Lizard's bossy demeanor collides with Snake's vulnerable side (don’t mention her late mother). Though misunderstandings temporarily cause friction, the friends rise above them. “Love is a word for friends to share. Don't you agree?” asks Lizard. Slightly macabre punchlines capture an amusing reality with unexpected charm, such as when Lizard's client (a mute frog) turns into Snake's tantalizing prey: "Snake curled her tail over the bulge in her stomach. He's croaked now, she thought…" The buddies' innovative use of language influences their sense of perspective; “human things” demonstrate their inferiority to the cold-blooded cohorts when seen to shed their “skin” before an outdoor dip, for instance. Rendered in rustic reds and muted tans, Bishop's watercolor-and-ink scenes grace the episodic chapters and add their own layer of humor.

Though a little dryer than in the first book, this duo's opinionated banter still packs a rib-tickling punch. (Animal fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-877579-01-1

Page Count: 126

Publisher: Gecko Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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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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MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS

This is rather a silly story, and I don't believe children will think it particularly funny. A paper hanger and painter finds time on his hands in winter, and spends it in reading of arctic exploration. It is all given reality when he receives a present of a penguin, which makes its nest in the refrigerator on cubes of ice, mates with a lonely penguin from the zoo, and produces a family of penguins which help set the Poppers on their feet.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1938

ISBN: 978-0-316-05843-8

Page Count: 139

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1938

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