“OK, so I’m Uncle Blubbafink. Hello already. I hear you’re looking for a good story or two. Well, you came to the right place.” This assertion is highly debatable. Uncle Blubbafink, a balding, squatty individual with deeply purple skin and a black-and-white striped trunk instead of a nose, certainly has stories to tell, but they stop short of being “seriously ridiculous,” managing instead to be seriously unfunny. Graves (Pet Boy, p. 109, etc.) here attempts the sort of zany hijinks perfected by Scieszka and Smith but delivers a tedious round of busily and brightly illustrated stories about Abraham (“Honest Ham”) Sandwich and George Washing Machine and the mysteriously chopped-down ham trees; Smoky, the baby volcano who was raised by chickens; and Dave, the dragon who ate so many used-car parts his head turned into a station wagon. Clearly the reader is expected to delight in these flights of illogic, but there is so little underpinning to them that they exist in a referential vacuum and thus carry very little humor. The book designer also clearly takes the Scieszka/Smith collaborations as a model, allowing the typeface to change color, size, and font in rapid succession, swooping around the pictures with abandon. The illustrations themselves are competent, and some, such as the image of a grassy moon covered with munching cows, are mildly humorous. Make no mistake: the same kids who love Captain Underpants may well revel in Uncle Blubbafink. But it’s hard to imagine an adult able to bear reading it to them. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-24083-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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


From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

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. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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Readers will be waiting to see how Charlie faces his next challenge in a series that marks a lovely change of pace from the...


From the Charlie Bumpers series , Vol. 1

Charlie Bumpers is doomed. The one teacher he never wanted in the whole school turns out to be his fourth-grade teacher.

Charlie recalls third grade, when he accidentally hit the scariest teacher in the whole school with his sneaker. “I know all about you, Charlie Bumpers,” she says menacingly on the first day of fourth grade. Now, in addition to all the hardships of starting school, he has gotten off on the wrong foot with her. Charlie’s dry and dramatic narrative voice clearly reveals the inner life of a 9-year-old—the glass is always half empty, especially in light of a series of well-intentioned events gone awry. It’s quite a litany: “Hitting Mrs. Burke in the head with the sneaker. The messy desk. The swinging on the door. The toilet paper. And now this—the shoe on the roof.” Harley has teamed once again with illustrator Gustavson (Lost and Found, 2012) to create a real-life world in which a likable kid must face the everyday terrors of childhood: enormous bullies, looming teachers and thick gym coaches with huge pointing fingers. Into this series opener, Harley magically weaves the simple lesson that people, even teachers, can surprise you.

Readers will be waiting to see how Charlie faces his next challenge in a series that marks a lovely change of pace from the sarcasm of Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-56145-732-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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