Chronicling the importance of empathy and openness, this fourth in the Carver Chronicles is a pleasing addition to a series...

TROUBLE NEXT DOOR

From the Carver Chronicles series , Vol. 4

Young Calvin Vickers must come to terms with an all-too-familiar new neighbor, the biggest bully at Carver Elementary.

Could Harper Hall just be a good kid with a troubled past? Calvin doesn’t want to be anywhere close to find out. “Big for his age” Harper Hall is someone “you don’t cross,” someone “you don’t say no [to] if he asks for one of your three Oreos,” someone who looks like “he just might pound someone into the ground.” How can Calvin focus on the school science fair when his world has just been rendered a shambles? What seems to be an impossible relationship is given hope when Calvin is offered an entry into Harper’s inner life; he learns that Harper’s mother struggles with housing insecurity and finding steady income, forcing Harper into foster care. The irony is that the cigarette-smoking, coldhearted foster grandmother who cares for Harper is not as well-equipped for the job as his troubled but loving mother. The reductive, negative-trope–supporting foster mother makes for a slight disappointment in an early chapter book that otherwise handles complexity with warmth. Harper, Calvin, and Calvin’s pals are depicted as black in Freeman’s soft, black-and-white illustrations, and Carver is a welcoming, multicultural place.

Chronicling the importance of empathy and openness, this fourth in the Carver Chronicles is a pleasing addition to a series in which diverse readers can recognize themselves in starring roles. (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-80127-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.

HORRIBLE HARRY SAYS GOODBYE

From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A long-running series reaches its closing chapters.

Having, as Kline notes in her warm valedictory acknowledgements, taken 30 years to get through second and third grade, Harry Spooger is overdue to move on—but not just into fourth grade, it turns out, as his family is moving to another town as soon as the school year ends. The news leaves his best friend, narrator “Dougo,” devastated…particularly as Harry doesn’t seem all that fussed about it. With series fans in mind, the author takes Harry through a sort of last-day-of-school farewell tour. From his desk he pulls a burned hot dog and other items that featured in past episodes, says goodbye to Song Lee and other classmates, and even (for the first time ever) leads Doug and readers into his house and memento-strewn room for further reminiscing. Of course, Harry isn’t as blasé about the move as he pretends, and eyes aren’t exactly dry when he departs. But hardly is he out of sight before Doug is meeting Mohammad, a new neighbor from Syria who (along with further diversifying a cast that began as mostly white but has become increasingly multiethnic over the years) will also be starting fourth grade at summer’s end, and planning a written account of his “horrible” buddy’s exploits. Finished illustrations not seen.

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47963-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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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

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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