Both hilarious and wise—another winner in this adventure series.

DEWEY FAIRCHILD

SIBLING PROBLEM SOLVER

A problem-solving sixth grader adds annoying siblings to his caseload in this third installment of a middle-grade series.

For more than a year, sixth grader Dewey Fairchild has been in the business of providing solutions to difficult parent and teacher conundrums. He has an office hidden in the attic, which is kept well supplied with delicious home-baked cookies thanks to Dewey’s 94-year-old assistant, Clara Cottonwood. After winter break, Dewey gets another problem-parent case: Sixth grader Archie Thomas’ mother won’t let him play video games during the week. Although Dewey helps them reach a compromise, Mrs. Thomas gets too involved in social media, embarrassing the mediator’s older sister, Angelica: “She’s suddenly all over the Internet and up in my business.” Dewey comes to the rescue again but then faces a new challenge: solving sibling problems. One girl has a little brother who won’t leave her alone (“Yesterday he ran around with his fart in a jar chasing me”), a boy’s little sister keeps coming into his room and messing with his things, and Dewey’s own sisters discover his secret office. Dewey’s elaborate schemes sometimes backfire entertainingly, such as his plan to improve sibling closeness through a fake bikenapping (the ransom to be paid in Tootsie Pops). But he does learn that younger siblings generally just want some attention, and even a small amount goes a long way. Horn (Dewey Fairchild: Teacher Problem Solver, 2018, etc.) offers a lot of laughs with these amusing misadventures: Adam Bautista-Knickerbocker, for example, shoves pancakes into his older sister’s slippers and shakes up a can of soda to spray all over her. Adults, too, can be comic, as with Mrs. Thomas’ hapless forays into social media: liking her own posts, using the wrong emoji, overtagging. But the author delivers some serious reflections that elevate this book beyond flubs and pranks. For example, a girl’s hot-pink bike and pink, purple, and blue helmet prompt thoughts about why readers associate color with gender and why they have gender-reveal parties. While Dewey is white, the cast includes kids of color.

Both hilarious and wise—another winner in this adventure series.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-948705-41-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2019

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KEVIN AND HIS DAD

There is something profoundly elemental going on in Smalls’s book: the capturing of a moment of unmediated joy. It’s not melodramatic, but just a Saturday in which an African-American father and son immerse themselves in each other’s company when the woman of the house is away. Putting first things first, they tidy up the house, with an unheralded sense of purpose motivating their actions: “Then we clean, clean, clean the windows,/wipe, wipe, wash them right./My dad shines in the windows’ light.” When their work is done, they head for the park for some batting practice, then to the movies where the boy gets to choose between films. After a snack, they work their way homeward, racing each other, doing a dance step or two, then “Dad takes my hand and slows down./I understand, and we slow down./It’s a long, long walk./We have a quiet talk and smile.” Smalls treats the material without pretense, leaving it guileless and thus accessible to readers. Hays’s artwork is wistful and idyllic, just as this day is for one small boy. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-79899-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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RAMONA'S WORLD

Ramona returns (Ramona Forever, 1988, etc.), and she’s as feisty as ever, now nine-going-on-ten (or “zeroteen,” as she calls it). Her older sister Beezus is in high school, baby-sitting, getting her ears pierced, and going to her first dance, and now they have a younger baby sister, Roberta. Cleary picks up on all the details of fourth grade, from comparing hand calluses to the distribution of little plastic combs by the school photographer. This year Ramona is trying to improve her spelling, and Cleary is especially deft at limning the emotional nuances as Ramona fails and succeeds, goes from sad to happy, and from hurt to proud. The grand finale is Ramona’s birthday party in the park, complete with a cake frosted in whipped cream. Despite a brief mention of nose piercing, Cleary’s writing still reflects a secure middle-class family and untroubled school life, untouched by the classroom violence or the broken families of the 1990s. While her book doesn’t match what’s in the newspapers, it’s a timeless, serene alternative for children, especially those with less than happy realities. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16816-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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