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A layered story with educational and entertainment appeal.

Grace learns about the branches of government and uses a democratic process at school to make their community a kinder place.

Grace can’t wait for her class trip to Washington, D.C. But that’s not the only thing happening at school. The bake sale was a success, and the student council is charged with deciding how to spend the money. Various classroom representatives and committees have suggestions, as does Principal Pérez. Should they buy new library books, musical instruments, or sports equipment? Sam likens the student-government system to the national government, with an executive branch (Principal Pérez) and a legislative branch (the elected leaders on the student council). The class has an inspiring trip to Washington, D.C., but back at school, everyone is still arguing over how to spend the money. Grace notices a new student sitting alone, and when she sees his sketchpad, she gets an idea. They collaborate on a proposal for a “Friendship Mall,” and voting day becomes a time for unity instead of fighting. The text effectively ties together the story’s threads while using child-friendly parallels to familiarize readers with the branches of government. Pham’s characteristically exuberant illustrations depict a diverse school community in which learning, leadership, and kindness coexist. Grace herself is a black girl with locs, Sam presents white, the new boy is South Asian, and Principal Pérez also has brown skin.

A layered story with educational and entertainment appeal. (author’s note, suggested activities, chart of checks and balances) (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-02433-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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

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From the Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker series , Vol. 1

A kind child in a book for middle-grade readers? There’s no downside to that.

Beatrice Zinker is a kinder, gentler Judy Moody.

Beatrice doesn’t want to be fit in a box. Her first word was “WOW,” not “Mom.” She does her best thinking upside down and prefers to dress like a ninja. Like Judy Moody, she has patient parents and a somewhat annoying younger brother. (She also has a perfectly ordinary older sister.) Beatrice spends all summer planning a top-secret spy operation complete with secret codes and a secret language (pig Latin). But on the first day of third grade, her best friend, Lenny (short for Eleanor), shows up in a dress, with a new friend who wants to play veterinarian at recess. Beatrice, essentially a kind if somewhat quirky kid, struggles to see the upside of the situation and ends up with two friends instead of one. Line drawings on almost every spread add to the humor and make the book accessible to readers who might otherwise balk at its 160 pages. Thankfully, the rhymes in the text do not continue past the first chapter. Children will enjoy the frequent puns and Beatrice’s preference for climbing trees and hanging upside down. The story drifts dangerously close to pedantry when Beatrice asks for advice from a grandmotherly neighbor but is saved by likable characters and upside-down cake. Beatrice seems to be white; Lenny’s surname, Santos, suggests that she may be Latina; their school is a diverse one.

A kind child in a book for middle-grade readers? There’s no downside to that. (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-6738-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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