Banks’s erstwhile hero Howie returns, and this time he’s in hot water with Uncle Sam and the IRS. It’s a case of mistaken identity plus a dose of math-phobia, compounded by a pessimistic outlook, that adds up to a rib-tickling tale. The dispiriting revelation that he was born on Friday the Thirteenth leads Howie to conclude that, being predestined for a lifetime of bad luck, any attempt to overcome his math difficulties would be a fruitless endeavor. In this lugubrious state of mind, Howie receives a letter from the IRS declaring he made a calculation error and owes Uncle Sam over 100 dollars. The fine print threatening “penalty and imprisonment” looms large, so Howie frantically concocts various schemes to come up with the money. Intertwined with the main plot are amusing scenes from Howie’s home and school life; in the midst of his IRS-induced frenzy, Howie must cope with his new baby sister, plummeting math grades, and a whole host of situations that are sure to resonate with fellow school-age readers. Millman’s humorous, full-page, black-and-white drawings are liberally interspersed throughout. Brief chapters populated with likable characters make this an engaging follow-up to Howie Bowles, Secret Agent (1999). There are plenty of math jokes, both subtle and unrepentantly corny, included in the text and illustrations to keep readers laughing while they learn, along with Howie, the monumental importance of minding your numbers. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2000

ISBN: 0-374-35116-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2000


Trickling, bubbling, swirling, rushing, a river flows down from its mountain beginnings, past peaceful country and bustling city on its way to the sea. Hooper (The Drop in My Drink, 1998, etc.) artfully evokes the water’s changing character as it transforms from “milky-cold / rattling-bold” to a wide, slow “sliding past mudflats / looping through marshes” to the end of its journey. Willey, best known for illustrating Geraldine McCaughrean’s spectacular folk-tale collections, contributes finely detailed scenes crafted in shimmering, intricate blues and greens, capturing mountain’s chill, the bucolic serenity of passing pastures, and a sense of mystery in the water’s shadowy depths. Though Hooper refers to “the cans and cartons / and bits of old wood” being swept along, there’s no direct conservation agenda here (for that, see Debby Atwell’s River, 1999), just appreciation for the river’s beauty and being. (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7636-0792-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000


From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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