In a companion to Chance and the Butterfly (2011), released simultaneously, ultra-whiny fourth-grader Martha is teamed with foster child Chance to work on an extended school project. Martha has lots of issues: She's adopted, a fact she was okay with until her adoptive mother got pregnant; her birth mother is trying to establish a better relationship with her, although Martha definitely doesn’t love the woman; she’s alienated all of her friends with her prickly attitude; and her adoptive parents must not love her any more since they keep expecting her to help out a bit. Martha sometimes manages to put a good face on her dejection and anger, so the adults around her seem oblivious to her nearly poisonous attitude, but her peers are quick to discover her angst. With the exception of the occasionally tolerant Chance, a boy with a few adjustment issues of his own, she has become a pariah. While children are rarely angels, making Martha’s baditude believable enough, she is a hard character to spend time with. Many readers relatively new to longer books may be unwilling to plow through 15 chapters focused on a girl they would most likely have little patience with if they knew her and so may miss the hidden message of looking beneath the surface at kids that present friendship challenges. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-55469-383-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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The second installment in this spirited series is a hit.


From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 2

A new baby coming means Ryan has lots of opportunities to grow love.

Ryan has so much to look forward to this summer—she is going to be a big sister, and she finally gets to go to church camp! But new adventures bring challenges, too. Ryan feels like the baby is taking forever to arrive, and with Mom on bed rest, she isn’t able to participate in the family’s typical summer activities. Ryan’s Dad is still working the late shift, which means he gets home and goes to bed when she and her older brother, Ray, are waking up, so their quality daddy-daughter time is limited to one day a week. When the time for camp finally arrives, Ryan is so worried about bugs, ghosts, and sharing a cabin that she wonders if she should go at all. Watson’s heroine is smart and courageous, bringing her optimistic attitude to any challenge she faces. Hard topics like family finances and complex relationships with friends are discussed in an age-appropriate way. Watson continues to excel at crafting a sense of place; she transports readers to Portland, Oregon, with an attention to detail that can only come from someone who has loved that city. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and occasional illustrations by Mata spotlight their joy and make this book shine.

The second installment in this spirited series is a hit. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0058-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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This amusing but never especially compelling dog tale is most likely to appeal to animal lovers. (Fiction. 8-11)


From the My Dog Ugly series

Nine-year-old Eric was thrilled to get a puppy from the animal shelter. But Ugly has now grown into an out-of-control dog.

The primary reason for that is Eric, of course. It’s been far too easy for him to leave Ugly’s care to his busy mom, so the young dog has never received any training, and now Eric’s parents and his rather unpleasant, much older sister have lost patience with both boy and dog. Worse is that Ugly prefers the person who feeds him, leaving Eric feeling rejected and unmotivated. If Ugly isn’t to be sent away, Eric has to step up and take over, a lesson he’s quite reluctant to embrace in spite of gentle—if rather pedantic—guidance from his grandfather. Eric’s first-person narrative is represented as a book he’s writing, apparently as self-motivated bibliotherapy. With amusing advice from his friends and help from Maggie, an experienced dog trainer, Eric eventually learns his lessons—and so does Ugly. Ugly’s misadventures are believable, as is Eric’s avoidance of responsibility. Maggie provides interesting dog-training hints, and the happy ending may inspire readers to pick up Ugly’s next misadventure, My Dog Gets a Job, which publishes simultaneously. Eric, his family, and Maggie present white in Lancett’s engaging illustrations; he has at least one friend of color.

This amusing but never especially compelling dog tale is most likely to appeal to animal lovers. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: July 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8086-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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