The “Help Wanted” sign in a cafe window draws some unusual applicants in this breezy, tongue-in-cheek middle reader from the author of Mean Mean Maureen Green (1999). As proprietor/struggling writer Uncle Clem insists that nothing worth noting ever happens along their stretch of Nevada road, young Sam serves up a peanut-butter/fried-banana/bacon sandwich to a man with a pink Cadillac and blue suede shoes (“ ‘Thank you,’ drawled the man. ‘Thank you very much.’ ”) and a vanilla shake to a jolly vacationer from way up north (“Red cheeks: check. White beard: check. Round little belly: check. No. It couldn't be!”). Then an oversized dust devil delivers a girl with a dog (“ ‘I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.’ ”) and helps rescue a small green traveler from a—vehicle—that crashes nearby (“ ‘Can't understand a word he says,’ said Uncle Clem. ‘Must be from out of state.’ ”) And these aren't the only visitors. Kidd supplies a generous array of vignettes and full-page cartoons, adding both fun and visual clues to the identities of these new employees. Though the Lonesome Cafe can't match Cynthia Rylant's Van Gogh Cafe (1995) for marvelous goingson, this will be a hit with young children, as well as reluctant readers old enough to twig to the cultural references. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-15-202134-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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Italics and exclamation points may be overused, but this new humorous series is full of gently amusing magical surprises.


From the Hubble Bubble series , Vol. 1

Shades of Bewitched, the old TV show featuring a witch married to a regular guy.

This new chapter-book series stars Pandora, a white girl with two grandmas—the good witch, Granny Crow, in a patterned minidress, whose magical powers enliven any party or school outing, and Granny Podmore, in her cardigan and plaid skirt, a kind but stereotypical grandmother who cleans and cooks. Pandora’s friends include Nellie, a black girl, and Nellie’s mom is also depicted as black in the exuberant line drawings with gray washes. The three chapterlong adventures are rather tame, meant for readers who want fun rather than fright. In “The Super-Spooky Fright Night!” (all titles have exclamation points), the two grandmothers host a Halloween party. Granny Crow creates “bat-shaped cookies that hung around the bowls, and a custard cat (that actually meowed!).” Granny Podmore makes “the neatest swans” from napkins. Granny Crow conjures up musical broomsticks when Granny Podmore wants to introduce musical chairs. The evening ends happily when Granny Podmore uses Ollie, her vacuum cleaner, to suck up little pumpkins from Granny Crow’s pumpkin pop gone wild. Only Granny Crow appears in the other stories, making teddy bears come alive to give a “teddy bears’ picnic!” and causing a nasty teacher to accidentally cast a spell that turns a school swimming lesson into utter chaos.

Italics and exclamation points may be overused, but this new humorous series is full of gently amusing magical surprises. (Fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8653-6

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Nosy Crow/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Earwig, as a spunky as any Jones heroine, keeps young and old readers chuckling through sadness at an era's end


A cunning heroine learns magic in Jones' last, posthumous offering.

Most children hate orphanages, but Earwig—Erica Wigg, according to her birth certificate—loves hers. Earwig manages people to perfection, and everyone at Saint Morwald's Home for Children does exactly what Earwig wants, whether it's making her a shepherd's pie or buying her a new red sweater. She's excellent at making herself unlovable to potential foster parents so they'll leave her alone in sunny St. Morwald's. But a terrible new pair of prospective parents arrives at the home: nasty-faced Bella Yaga and the Mandrake, a ridiculously tall man who seems to have horns. Bella Yaga and the Mandrake cart Earwig off, willy-nilly, to powder rats' bones and cook breakfast. Indomitable Earwig determines that if she must work for a smelly witch, at least she'll learn magic. But how to do so when wicked Bella Yaga keeps threatening to give her worms? Moreover, no matter what, Earwig has been warned not to disturb the Mandrake, who trucks with demons. Earwig, illustrated with marvelous vitality by Zelinsky, is not to be trifled with. There's just the right level of grotesquerie and scariness (worms that are "blue and purple and very wriggly") in this utterly charming chapter book.

Earwig, as a spunky as any Jones heroine, keeps young and old readers chuckling through sadness at an era's end . (Fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-207511-6

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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