A fun middle-grade novel with a winning protagonist and a charming setting.

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PIERRE FRANÇOIS

5TH GRADE MISHAPS

In Stephens’ (Some Act of Vision, 2016, etc.) first middle-grade novel, a fifth-grader can’t wait to go to Adventure Camp with his classmates, but staying overnight might be a problem—because he still wets the bed.

Young Texan Pierre François loves Minecraft, hanging out with his best friends Max and Bo, and listening to his French father tell jokes. But he desperately wants to overcome his bed-wetting habit, and although doctors have tried numerous remedies, from using “big-boy diapers” to wearing special hooks on his pajamas, nothing has worked. When he soaks his sheets during a sleepover at Max’s house, he surreptitiously stuffs the sheets in the washing machine and pretends that nothing happened. Unfortunately, Pierre can’t hide his secret for much longer, as a class trip to Adventure Camp is coming up. During the trip, he bunks with Max and Max’s father; although they have to share their cabin with the school bully, they all get to enjoy canoeing, eating new foods, and searching for wildlife. But just when everything is looking up, Pierre wakes up to a soaked sleeping bag. What’s a kid to do? Stephens crafts a well-realized school environment, replete with friends, bullies, and caring teachers. Pierre’s first-person narration has a sincere tone, and his antics are sometimes reminiscent of those in Pierre’s favorite comic strip, Bill Watterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes.” Debut illustrator Yokochi provides simple images to highlight larger events, in a style similar to that in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Big Nate series; however, the pictures aren’t the focus of the book’s humor. Pierre’s bed-wetting angst is the book’s major theme, but Stephens also focuses on Pierre’s smaller victories, such as staying up late with a friend to play video games or realizing that the girl he likes knows his name. This lends the book a slow-paced, slice-of-life feel as readers come to know and appreciate Pierre’s world, and the resolution is both believable and satisfying.

A fun middle-grade novel with a winning protagonist and a charming setting.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61296-975-6

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath...

GREGORY AND THE GRIMBOCKLE

In this debut middle-grade novel, a lonely boy finds friendship and learns about the magic of human connection.

Defined by the large mole on his lip, 10-year-old Gregory has grown distant from his family. He is friendless and withdrawn. Then one night a strange little creature emerges from Gregory’s mole. It is riding a (quite lovable) cockroach and can change size. This is the Grimbockle. The Grimbockle—one of many Bockles, who, like Palmer Cox’s Brownies, live at the peripheries of human awareness—tends to the exoodles that bind people together. Exoodles are long, transparent, noodlelike threads and are usually invisible. Once Gregory has his eyeballs painted with Carrot Juicy, though, he can see them. He joins the Grimbockle and the roach, traveling the exoodles as if on a high-speed roller coaster. Exoodles wither and die when people don’t look after their relationships. The Grimbockle is trying to repair a particularly sickly exoodle that links a boy to his mother. Can Gregory help—and can he mend the exoodles in his own life? Schubert follows delightedly in the footsteps of Roald Dahl, opening her unfortunate young protagonist’s eyes to a previously unseen world both weird and wondrous (yet for all its outlandish magic, oddly logical). The scenario is one of riotous imagination, while the Grimbockle himself—brought sweetly to life in black-and-white illustrations by Kraft—is a sprightly and good-natured little person, full of the type of singsong infelicities found in Dahl’s beloved nonhuman characters: “Is you ever seeing glimpses of squiggles in the corners of your twinklers but then they is disappearing in a snippety blink?” “ ‘Exoodles!’ shouted the Grimbockle in triumph. ‘Sometimes, hoo-mans is getting so twisty and wound up in extra exoodles that they is feeling gloomy blue and heavy all day long.’ ” The story is perhaps too much of a parable to fully match Dahl’s template; the adventure is safer and the threats less dark. Nonetheless, readers should fall willingly and with thrilled abandon into the fizzy, fanciful world of Gregory and his Grimbockle friend.

A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath surface appearances.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9911109-3-3

Page Count: 153

Publisher: New Wrinkle Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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A story with a tried-and-true plot that needs to freshen up its presentation.

The Lost Little Rabbit

A lost bunny searches for his mother in this debut picture book.

The youngster is already lost in the beginning of Lakhiani’s version of the time-honored tale of a lost child reuniting witha parent. On a foggy day, a young rabbit finds that he doesn’t recognize where he is. He calls for his mother, but instead of her voice in response, he hears the hum of a bumblebee. The nameless little rabbit asks if the bee knows where his home is, but the bee doesn’t and sends him on to the wise owl, who “sees everything.” As the little rabbit runs through the “eerie” fog toward the owl’s tree, he meets a kind squirrel. “I’ve lost my mother….I am lost and scared,” explains the little rabbit. The squirrel leads the rabbit to the wise owl’s tree, which the rabbit climbs to ask the owl, “[C]an you see where I live?” The fog is too thick for the owl to spot little rabbit’s home, so he gives the little rabbit a snack and invites him to rest. Falling asleep, the little rabbit dreams of his mother but is awakened by the hooting, buzzing and chattering of his three new friends. Looking around, he sees his mother, who embraces him: “I will never again let you out of my sight,” she tells him. The digitized art by Adams, some of which is credited to Thinkstock, is in a cartoon style that clearly delineates the characters but includes a few anthropomorphic details—a graduation cap for the owl, spectacles for the squirrel and only four legs for the bee—that add little value. Since the story centers on the little rabbit failing to recognize where he is, the choice to make the right-hand page of every spread identical is potentially confusing; regardless, it’s repetitious. The text fails in the opposite direction: It doesn’t create the typical patterns that can help toddlers follow the story, build anticipation and learn to chime in—steps on the path to reading alone. Erratic rhythms, changing stanza lengths and rhyme schemes, and awkward syntax undercut attempts to enliven the tale with poetry.

A story with a tried-and-true plot that needs to freshen up its presentation.

Pub Date: May 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1491895603

Page Count: 24

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2015

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