A top-notch early reader, with words and art in perfect step.


From the Charlie & Mouse series

Two brothers create four fine and loopy entertainments to fill their day.

At daybreak, “Charlie woke up. There was a lump beside him.” (In bed, under the covers, as Hughes’ wry artwork relates.) “He poked the lump. The lump moaned.” It’s Mouse, who moans that he is sleeping. Charlie challenges that. “How can you be sleeping?...You are talking.” They get up and go poke the two lumps in their parents’ bed. “I am a mom,” the lump announces. “I can do what I want.” This same spirit informs the following three sagas in this early reader. One is a gathering parade to a neighborhood party, featuring a variety of genders, classes, and races. Mixed-race Charlie and Mouse have a white mom and an Asian dad; Mouse, although he takes the masculine pronoun, wears a pink tutu. Next Charlie and Mouse try to earn some money by selling rocks. Neither the elderly brown lady nor the interracial gay couple are in the market, but they do need rocks removed and will pay for the service. Mom, want it or not, gets a rock garden. Lastly, the boys create a new tradition: a bedtime banana, only to conspire after lights out that a bedtime Popsicle may be better. Snyder serves the stories with propulsive good cheer and a pleasing cadence, keeping the pages flipping, while Hughes’ illustrations have crazy-quilt complexity and visual texture.

A top-notch early reader, with words and art in perfect step. (Early reader. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4521-3153-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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A welcome, well-researched reflection of cultural pride in the early-reader landscape.


From the Rafi and Rosi series

The fourth installment in Delacre’s early-reader series centers on the rich musical traditions of Puerto Rico, once again featuring sibling tree frogs Rafi and Rosi Coquí.

Readers learn along with Rafi and Rosi as they explore bomba, plena, and salsa in three chapters. A glossary at the beginning sets readers up well to understand the Spanish vocabulary, including accurate phoneticization for non-Spanish speakers. The stories focus on Rafi and Rosi’s relationship within a musical context. For example, in one chapter Rafi finds out that he attracts a larger audience playing his homemade güiro with Rosi’s help even though he initially excluded her: “Big brothers only.” Even when he makes mistakes, as the older brother, Rafi consoles Rosi when she is embarrassed or angry at him. In each instance, their shared joy for music and dance ultimately shines through any upsets—a valuable reflection of unity. Informational backmatter and author’s sources are extensive. Undoubtedly these will help teachers, librarians, and parents to develop Puerto Rican cultural programs, curriculum, or home activities to extend young readers’ learning. The inclusion of instructions to make one’s own homemade güiro is a thoughtful addition. The Spanish translation, also by Delacre and published simultaneously, will require a more advanced reader than the English one to recognize and comprehend contractions (“pa’bajo-pa-pa’rriba”) and relatively sophisticated vocabulary.

A welcome, well-researched reflection of cultural pride in the early-reader landscape. (Early reader. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-89239-429-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Children's Book Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.


Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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