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From the Enchanted Pony Academy series , Vol. 1

Gentle, positive, and surprisingly introspective for the genre.

A young pony learns about confidence and patience at the Enchanted Pony Academy.

The Enchanted Pony Academy prepares magical Glitter Ponies to be pets of royal children. Daisy has sparkly Glitter Pony hooves, but hers don’t produce glitter as the others’ do, and she’s never showed a sign of magic. She feels plain among the uniponies and pegaponies of her class, especially as most have already discovered their magic gifts. In a refreshing plot, her classmates don’t ostracize her, and she spends the time allotted to gift-development in improving her knowledge of the school due to her own curiosity and desire to learn. Scott also subverts the standard trope of the forbidden adventure off school grounds: Daisy decides against going, then checks school maps and finds a path to their river destination (to meet the seaponies) that’s completely on school grounds, allowing her to lead her friends and keep everyone out of trouble. Her stress over her lack of special gift reaches a peak with a surprise visit from their future royal owners and the need for Daisy to perform. Her schoolmates strategize extra cheering so the children know she’s special by how beloved she is—and then her gift appears, cementing in her mind what the others already knew.

Gentle, positive, and surprisingly introspective for the genre. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-90887-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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From the Franklin School Friends series

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading.

When Franklin School principal Mr. Boone announces a pet-show fundraiser, white third-grader Cody—whose lack of skill and interest in academics is matched by keen enthusiasm for and knowledge of animals—discovers his time to shine.

As with other books in this series, the children and adults are believable and well-rounded. Even the dialogue is natural—no small feat for a text easily accessible to intermediate readers. Character growth occurs, organically and believably. Students occasionally, humorously, show annoyance with teachers: “He made mad squinty eyes at Mrs. Molina, which fortunately she didn’t see.” Readers will be kept entertained by Cody’s various problems and the eventual solutions. His problems include needing to raise $10 to enter one of his nine pets in the show (he really wants to enter all of them), his troublesome dog Angus—“a dog who ate homework—actually, who ate everything and then threw up afterward”—struggles with homework, and grappling with his best friend’s apparently uncaring behavior toward a squirrel. Serious values and issues are explored with a light touch. The cheery pencil illustrations show the school’s racially diverse population as well as the memorable image of Mr. Boone wearing an elephant costume. A minor oddity: why does a child so immersed in animal facts call his male chicken a rooster but his female chickens chickens?

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30223-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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Having put together a band with renowned cousin Duck Ellington and singer “Bee” Holiday, Rooster’s chances sure look...

Winning actually isn’t everything, as jazz-happy Rooster learns when he goes up against the legendary likes of Mules Davis and Ella Finchgerald at the barnyard talent show.

Having put together a band with renowned cousin Duck Ellington and singer “Bee” Holiday, Rooster’s chances sure look good—particularly after his “ ‘Hen from Ipanema’ [makes] / the barnyard chickies swoon.”—but in the end the competition is just too stiff. No matter: A compliment from cool Mules and the conviction that he still has the world’s best band soon puts the strut back in his stride. Alexander’s versifying isn’t always in tune (“So, he went to see his cousin, / a pianist of great fame…”), and despite his moniker Rooster plays an electric bass in Bower’s canted country scenes. Children are unlikely to get most of the jokes liberally sprinkled through the text, of course, so the adults sharing it with them should be ready to consult the backmatter, which consists of closing notes on jazz’s instruments, history and best-known musicians.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58536-688-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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