Despite the cute quips, the storyline lacks intrigue for a broader audience; best for readers fond of fishing, Wisconsin,...

Mistake, Wisconsin

A teenage blogger tries to bring down a crooked politician when scandal hits a fishing-obsessed community.

The founders of Mistake, Wisconsin, gave their city its name to discourage visitors. The plan backfired. Flocks of tourists frequent the small town to partake in every Mistakers’ favorite pastime: fishing. For them, it’s not just a hobby or an industry; it’s a livelihood that permeates every facet of life. Locals and visitors alike go for the muskellunge, a fish so prized it’s the high school mascot as well as the inspiration for hit songs (“Do The Musky”) and merchandise galore. When musky mailboxes start disappearing just days before the town’s annual Opening Day—a beloved holiday when the lakes open up for a season of musky fishing—Deputy Mayor Kenny “the Troll” Trollqvist points his finger at Mistake’s teenagers and cancels all Opening Day festivities. Fifteen-year-old Megan Svenson, a sassy blogger and bait store staffer, sets out to solve the mystery, expose the Troll’s crooked ways, and save the fishing celebration. Readers don’t have to wait long to find out whether the thieves are inebriated teens, territory-treading Chicagoans, or scheming city officials—turns out that’s not really the point of Niebruegge’s debut YA novel. Instead, she describes small-town shenanigans, all things fishing, and teenage observations of everyday life with an appealing satirical tone: “Like all crotchety old people, Mike spent most of the day complaining that the younger generation was ruining America with their electronic devices, optimism, and viral cat videos,” and “Our community hasn’t been so terrorized since the Fourth of July chipmunk infestation of 1974.” But all this comedy doesn’t wash away the book’s duller aspects, such as a brief but slow opening chapter that details Mistake’s geographical features and historical roots, a major plotline involving building permits, and extensive back stories for seemingly every town tradition and institution.

Despite the cute quips, the storyline lacks intrigue for a broader audience; best for readers fond of fishing, Wisconsin, and small-town quirks.

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-0990871019

Page Count: 160

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2015

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Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.


Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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