This cute cat seamlessly works an education on bodegas into a playful story.

BODEGA CAT

A spunky bodega-dwelling kitty describes the ins and outs of a bustling neighborhood market.

Life for Chip the bodega cat is full of interesting new friends, great food, hard work, and a lot of fun. A bodega, Chip explains, is a “store that sells a little bit of everything you could need!” From tasty snacks to laundry detergent, the bodega has you covered 24 hours a day. The feline narrator details the rhythm of the day, which includes working diligently through the early-morning deliveries, the busy breakfast rush, the lunch crowd, and the lively after-school hours. Chip helps out around the store, at least in theory, by counting up inventory and lending a paw at the cash register. Of course, the friendly feline is never too busy for a round of hide-and-seek with its many “adoring fans,” the neighborhood kids. Characters depicted in the book represent many cultures and ethnicities, including Chip’s Latinx human family, headed by Papi, who’s from the Dominican Republic. Chin’s vibrant illustrations are touched with a graffiti-artist vibe and bring the world of the bodega to life with engaging full-color spreads. Details will feel perfectly executed to those familiar with bodegas already and will quickly transport those who haven’t yet had the pleasure. Readers’ mouths will water at the delicious-looking food prepared in the bodega’s kitchen.

This cute cat seamlessly works an education on bodegas into a playful story. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-57687-932-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: POW!

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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GRUMPY MONKEY FRESHLY SQUEEZED

From the Grumpy Monkey series

Grumpy Monkey moves from picture books to a graphic-novel chapter book, in which he tolerates his friends’ goofy antics during a group journey to an orange grove.

Divided into three chapters of cartoon-style comics, with bonus interludes in between, the book features Jim Panzee, the protagonist of the Grumpy Monkey picture-book series. He is on his relaxing Wednesday Walk, stress orange in hand, but little is quiet about his journey once his jungle friends appear. After the accumulation of unwanted companions causes Jim to squeeze his stress orange so hard that he destroys it, the group seeks a replacement, stopping for a papaya fight, a splash party in the water, and some swinging from vines. They eventually escape angry parrots with the only orange the parrots didn’t devour. There’s a good dose of potty humor: Leslie the giraffe responds to Norman the gorilla’s invitation to come along with “you bet your butt I do,” and two spreads are devoted to poop humor (with Jim as the butt of the joke). There’s also wordplay (a chapter called “Orange Ya Glad We Made It?”; Jim’s repeated mantra, “Squeeze, squeeze, mind at ease”; and a guide to speaking Jim’s nonsense language, in which the syllable ob is inserted before vowels in every word). That the book pauses for a “Primate Primer” with talking simians will be like pouring lemon juice on a cut for those readers who see in anthropomorphized monkeys a perpetuation of pernicious anti-Black stereotypes.

Disappointing. (Graphic fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30601-7

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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