All in all, this is more like a muted manifesto than anything else, but Fitzhugh's approach to family dynamics is certainly...



If Paula Fox as a white author was criticized for writing of black experience in The Slave Dancer, even though her hero was white, Fitzhugh makes herself even more vulnerable by telling a black family's story from the viewpoints of the two children—Emma (short for Emancipation), about eleven, and Willie, seven.

What's more, the Sheridan parents are far closer to stereotype than were those Fitzhugh created for Harriet the Spy—the Walshes were true to their class, but didn't seem invented to represent it. Here, the father, born and orphaned in the slums, is now a successful lawyer (white maid, East End Avenue apartment) to whom Willie's passion for dancing represents a return to the days when singing and dancing and running around on a stage making a fool of himself were all the honkies let a black man do. Mr. Sheridan is also a male chauvinist, threatened by his bright daughter's interest in law, and his wife is a sympathetic but spinelessly subservient helpmate. But when the characters seem sociological types, the improbabilities become more impeding, and surely a seven-year-old's fixation on career plans (dancing on Broadway or otherwise) and, less importantly, a contemporary kid's devotion to soft-shoe era turns, are hard to credit. However questionable the premise, the Sheridans do fill out a bit as their story becomes one of generation conflict and children's rights, and Emma in particular, faced with the crushing awareness of her mother's weakness and what she perceives (not unrealistically) as her father's hatred, proves a sturdy, uncompromising fighter for Willie's self-determination and her own integrity. Disillusioned by an underground children's Army forming in the city, she organizes a small group of classmates as the nucleus of a sort of consciousness-raising movement. . .for, "as nobody's family is going to change, then we have to change."

All in all, this is more like a muted manifesto than anything else, but Fitzhugh's approach to family dynamics is certainly child centered, and Emma's observant sketches of her parents' and her peers' behavior, along with her own abrasive contributions to the agitation, provide some flashes of life and recognition.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1974

ISBN: 978-0-312-53577-3

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1974

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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