The series continues to present appealing and likable characters gently exploring the moral dilemmas of childhood.

DON'T FEED THE GECKOS!

From the Carver Chronicles series , Vol. 3

Bernardo, Carlos’ cousin whom he hasn’t seen in years, is temporarily moving in with Carlos and his family.

As in the prior two installments of the series, this title features an elementary-age, male protagonist of color. Carlos has recently discovered his love of animals. He’s motivated to work hard in school, and he keeps pets that help him learn more about animal behavior, including his prized geckos. Carlos doesn’t know much about Bernardo, just that he has had what is vaguely defined as a “hard year.” When Bernardo arrives, Carlos isn’t sure what to think. He finds himself sharing his room, his class, his soccer team—everything—with Bernardo. He wants to make Bernardo feel welcome but grows increasingly frustrated with his cousin’s sneaky and aggressive behavior. Appropriately, given the tight focus on Carlos’ perspective, the book doesn’t focus on the details of Bernardo’s challenges but rather on the ways in which he acts out, at times behaving as a bit of a bully. Eventually the tension boils over into a confrontation, followed by a somewhat rushed resolution and a lesson about empathy. Many independent readers, particularly boys, will identify with these characters and their struggles.

The series continues to present appealing and likable characters gently exploring the moral dilemmas of childhood. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-57529-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for...

DOG DAYS

From the Carver Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A gentle voice and familiar pitfalls characterize this tale of a boy navigating the risky road to responsibility. 

Gavin is new to his neighborhood and Carver Elementary. He likes his new friend, Richard, and has a typically contentious relationship with his older sister, Danielle. When Gavin’s desire to impress Richard sets off a disastrous chain of events, the boy struggles to evade responsibility for his actions. “After all, it isn’t his fault that Danielle’s snow globe got broken. Sure, he shouldn’t have been in her room—but then, she shouldn’t be keeping candy in her room to tempt him. Anybody would be tempted. Anybody!” opines Gavin once he learns the punishment for his crime. While Gavin has a charming Everyboy quality, and his aversion to Aunt Myrtle’s yapping little dog rings true, little about Gavin distinguishes him from other trouble-prone protagonists. He is, regrettably, forgettable. Coretta Scott King Honor winner English (Francie, 1999) is a teacher whose storytelling usually benefits from her day job. Unfortunately, the pizzazz of classroom chaos is largely absent from this series opener.

This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for subsequent volumes. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-97044-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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

DEAR BEAST

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. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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