Fans of Freckleface Strawberry and her friends will welcome their return, but better stories about school, friendship, and...


From the Freckleface Strawberry series

A young boy discovers that his loud voice is (mostly) not appreciated at school.

Redheaded Freckleface Strawberry, blond Noah, large and loud Windy Pants Patrick (all white), and brown-skinned Winnie (possibly Southeast Asian) have enjoyed playing (and shouting) all summer long. They have jumped through the sprinkler, savored ice cream treats, and participated in outdoor games. Now it’s time to return to school. Most of the children adapt easily to their teachers’ and classmates’ expectations. But Windy Pants Patrick finds himself being shushed in the classroom, the lunchroom, and the library. Not until he gets to music class does being louder than the rest work to his advantage. Pham’s digitally colored Japanese brush-pen artwork is energetic and cheerful with a decidedly retro feel. As in other titles in the series, however, white characters are stark white, which contrasts oddly with the more realistic skin tones of Asian and black individuals. The mildly amusing premise is likewise hampered by the shortcomings of Moore’s text. Changes in typeface and font and a multiplicity of exclamation points attempt to add excitement, but short, repetitive, declarative sentences dominate, giving it a choppy feel.

Fans of Freckleface Strawberry and her friends will welcome their return, but better stories about school, friendship, and embracing individuality abound. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-39203-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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


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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Accessible, reassuring and hopeful.


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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