While readers can celebrate Mallory’s widening outlook on the world, they may yearn for a little less vanilla-flavored syrup

MALLORY MAKES A DIFFERENCE

From the Mallory series , Vol. 28

After the disappointment of taking on too much for Halloween, Mallory decides she needs to be more philanthropic for the next holiday in this 28th and final tale.

Planning to spend part of Halloween evening at a party and part trick-or-treating fails completely, leaving very earnest fifth-grader Mallory frustrated. She needs to do better for Thanksgiving. With guidance from her mom, Mallory decides a food-drive competition among the grades at her school would be perfect. Her friend Joey offers to help when his stepsister, Mary Ann, turns Mallory down. That gives Mallory room to smugly reflect on the girls’ gradual separation and Mary Ann’s unfortunate self-focus. With the school administration agreeing to the plan, Mallory and Joey launch their drive but immediately run into unexpected (but very believable) issues. As cans accumulate and then get mixed up, it becomes impossible to figure out which grade won the prize of a homework-free week. Some classmates blame Joey and Mallory—selfishly missing completely the good they’ve done. Nearly all the classmates depicted in Kalis’ simple, boldly outlined illustrations are white like Mallory, Joey, and Mary Ann, but their teacher is black, and the food-bank representative is Asian. This mild, predictable, ever-so-sincere tale, the last in the long-running series, features a feel-good conclusion with a heavy-handed message.

While readers can celebrate Mallory’s widening outlook on the world, they may yearn for a little less vanilla-flavored syrup . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4677-5032-5

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Darby Creek

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic.

STICKS AND STONES

Veteran picture-book creator Polacco tells another story from her childhood that celebrates the importance of staying true to one’s own interests and values.

After years of spending summers with her father and grandmother, narrator Trisha is excited to be spending the school year in Michigan with them. Unexpectedly abandoned by her summertime friends, Trisha quickly connects with fellow outsiders Thom and Ravanne, who may be familiar to readers from Polacco’s The Junkyard Wonders (2010). Throughout the school year, the three enjoy activities together and do their best to avoid school bully Billy. While a physical confrontation between Thom (aka “Sissy Boy”) and Billy does come, so does an opportunity for Thom to defy convention and share his talent with the community. Loosely sketched watercolor illustrations place the story in the middle of the last century, with somewhat old-fashioned clothing and an apparently all-White community. Trisha and her classmates appear to be what today would be called middle schoolers; a reference to something Trisha and her mom did when she was “only eight” suggests that several years have passed since that time. As usual, the lengthy first-person narrative is cozily conversational but includes some challenging vocabulary (textiles, lackeys, foretold). The author’s note provides a brief update about her friends’ careers and encourages readers to embrace their own differences. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2622-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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