A marvelous mix of autumnal spirits with a deeper call for understanding.

Prejudice collides with neighborly goodwill when love and truth overcome superstition.  

“They came in the dark and took the narrow path that only witches used. Everyone said that’s what they were.” A suspicious text laden with ill will and shadowy scratch-lined art full of foreboding imagery fills the top half of the page. On the bottom half, however, a different narrative takes place. The top is told from the perspective of villagers who eye the people in the woods with suspicion bordering on outright accusation (“They brought cloaks and brooms—so many brooms”), while the bottom half is a gentle counterpart (“We brought cloth and wooden handles”). Turns out, the people in the woods are constructing beautiful bird kites to fly. And when harsh winds tear away those kites, the now remorseful villagers bring supplies of their own to help the people of the woods fly their birds again. Certainly the resolution to the conflict between the two groups comes with unrealistic ease, so the true lures here are the art and design. The split pages, containing two conversations at once, require a certain level of sophistication on the part of young readers. Meanwhile, Luyken imbues her art with a palette of blacks, greens, purples, and golds that hint at more than just misunderstandings in the shadows. Characters are diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A marvelous mix of autumnal spirits with a deeper call for understanding. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2023

ISBN: 9780593372838

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2023


From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

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

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. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018


From the Bea Garcia series , Vol. 4

A funny and timely primer for budding activists.

Problems are afoot at Emily Dickinson Elementary School, and it’s up to Bea Garcia to gather the troops and fight.

Bea Garcia and her best friend, Judith Einstein, sit every day under the 250-year-old oak tree in their schoolyard and imagine a face in its trunk. They name it “Emily” after their favorite American poet. Bea loves to draw both real and imagined pictures of their favorite place—the squirrels in the tree, the branches that reach for the sky, the view from the canopy even though she’s never climbed that high. Until the day a problem boy does climb that high, pelting the kids with acorns and then getting stuck. Bert causes such a scene that the school board declares Emily a nuisance and decides to chop it down. Bea and Einstein rally their friends with environmental facts, poetry, and artwork to try to convince the adults in their lives to change their minds. Bea must enlist Bert if she wants her plan to succeed. Can she use her imagination and Bert’s love of monsters to get him in line? In Bea’s fourth outing, Zemke gently encourages her protagonist to grow from an artist into an activist. Her energy and passion spill from both her narration and her frequent cartoons, which humorously extend the text. Spanish-speaking Bea’s Latinx, Einstein and Bert present white, and their classmates are diverse.

A funny and timely primer for budding activists. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 6-9)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2941-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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