Gooney Bird, ever charming, is still a winner for those graduating from beginning chapter books to longer fare.

GOONEY BIRD AND ALL HER CHARMS

From the Gooney Bird Greene series , Vol. 6

Gooney Bird is back for the sixth volume in this cleverly engaging series with a likable yet eccentric heroine at its center who happens to wear a “silver bracelet jingling with charms.”

March is the month when the children in Mrs. Pidgeon’s class will learn about the human body. In her ever-helpful way, Gooney Bird arranges for her anatomy-professor uncle to lend the class a skeleton. After gasps, giggles, rapid-fire questions and lessons about the skeleton, the class decides to share their new visitor with the rest of the school, choosing appropriate places for each different part of the body. A lesson on the brain takes place in the library, the digestive system display is in the cafeteria, facts about muscles are shared in the gym, and the respiratory system is tested outside. The principal, teachers and kids enjoy these surprise lessons—except for one parent, who complains that the skeleton is inappropriate. When the skeleton goes missing, Gooney Bird swoops in to lead her class in an investigation of the mystery. As always, the story is full of spot-on dialogue that captures every enthusiastic remark or bashful comment added by these winning second graders. It combines with a compelling story structure that is not only highly readable, but entertainingly informative.

Gooney Bird, ever charming, is still a winner for those graduating from beginning chapter books to longer fare. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-11354-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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In all, it's an unsuccessful follow-up to Weeks' Pie (2011), but word-loving Melody is appealing, and her appended list of...

HONEY

Melody Bishop's peaceful life with her widower father is upset when the annoying 6-year-old next door comes home from the beauty parlor with some gossip.

The 10-year-old has already noticed her father's increased distraction and a new tendency to whistle, so when Teeny Nelson reports that "Henry's been bitten by the love bug," Melody is avid to know more. With her best friend, biracial Nick Woo, at her side, she goes to the Bee Hive beauty salon to investigate. What she discovers there rocks her world not once but twice, as salon owner Bee-Bee has information about Melody's mother, who died in childbirth and about whom her father never speaks. Weeks gets the small moments right: Melody's exasperation with Teeny and the way it turns to sympathy when the little girl's mother threatens a spanking; her affectionate resignation when her grandfather, who has emphysema, sneaks out to the garage for a smoke. And Melody's close relationship with her loving father is sweetly evoked. But other elements fail to cohere. Obvious misdirection leads Melody to a critical misunderstanding that never amounts to more than a plot contrivance, and the mystical visions of Bee-Bee's dog, Mo, who has an unknown connection to Melody, strain credulity.

In all, it's an unsuccessful follow-up to Weeks' Pie (2011), but word-loving Melody is appealing, and her appended list of nail-polish colors is somewhat amusing. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-46557-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

INFINITE COUNTRY

A 15-year-old girl in Colombia, doing time in a remote detention center, orchestrates a jail break and tries to get home.

"People say drugs and alcohol are the greatest and most persuasive narcotics—the elements most likely to ruin a life. They're wrong. It's love." As the U.S. recovers from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from the misery of separations on the border, from both the idea and the reality of a wall around the United States, Engel's vital story of a divided Colombian family is a book we need to read. Weaving Andean myth and natural symbolism into her narrative—condors signify mating for life, jaguars revenge; the embattled Colombians are "a singed species of birds without feathers who can still fly"; children born in one country and raised in another are "repotted flowers, creatures forced to live in the wrong habitat"—she follows Talia, the youngest child, on a complex journey. Having committed a violent crime not long before she was scheduled to leave her father in Bogotá to join her mother and siblings in New Jersey, she winds up in a horrible Catholic juvie from which she must escape in order to make her plane. Hence the book's wonderful first sentence: "It was her idea to tie up the nun." Talia's cross-country journey is interwoven with the story of her parents' early romance, their migration to the United States, her father's deportation, her grandmother's death, the struggle to reunite. In the latter third of the book, surprising narrative shifts are made to include the voices of Talia's siblings, raised in the U.S. This provides interesting new perspectives, but it is a little awkward to break the fourth wall so late in the book. Attention, TV and movie people: This story is made for the screen.

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

Pub Date: yesterday

ISBN: 978-1-982159-46-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet!

WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE

From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 1

Ryan Hart is navigating the fourth grade and all its challenges with determination.

Her mom named her Ryan because it means “king,” and she wanted Ryan to feel powerful every time she heard her name; Ryan knows it means she is a leader. So when changes occur or disaster strikes, budding chef Ryan does her best to find the positive and “make sunshine.” When her dad is laid off from the post office, the family must make adjustments that include moving into a smaller house, selling their car, and changing how they shop for groceries. But Ryan gets to stay at Vernon Elementary, and her mom still finds a way to get her the ingredients she needs to practice new recipes. Her older brother, Ray, can be bossy, but he finds little ways to support her, especially when she is down—as does the whole family. Each episodic chapter confronts Ryan with a situation; intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching, they should be familiar and accessible to readers, as when Ryan fumbles her Easter speech despite careful practice. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and Watson continues to bring visibility to both Portland, Oregon, generally and its Black community specifically, making another wonderful contribution that allows Black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love.

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0056-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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