A meandering but agreeable introduction to modern Cuba.

TRAVELS IN CUBA

From the Travels With My Family series , Vol. 5

When Charlie’s parents tell him and his brother, Max, that they will be heading to Cuba for vacation, they think of beautiful beaches and resorts. What they find off the beaten path is a very different Cuba.

When Charlie’s mother is invited to Cuba to work with local schoolchildren, the whole family goes with her to explore, learning that Cuba is a bit more complicated than they anticipated. As their tour guide begins to take them around Havana, it becomes apparent that some places are for turistas only, which doesn’t seem fair to young Charlie. “That was the point of all the rules, I decided. They were there to keep Cubans and us from talking to each other.” As they leave the city and find their way to Viñales and Trinidad, they discover the kind people, delicious food, and infectious music of Cuba. But they also encounter the poverty, hunger, fear, and rules that come with living in a communist country. As with her previous books in the Travels With My Family series, Gay tries to paint a portrait of Cuba from the perspective of children. She does a lovely job of highlighting Cuban culture while also addressing directly the very real issues that come with over 60 years of communist rule. However, the story itself is somewhat slow and lacks clear direction, jumping from place to place near the end.

A meandering but agreeable introduction to modern Cuba. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77306-347-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Readers will enjoy this sequel from a plot perspective and will learn how to play-act a trial, though they may not engage...

THE LEMONADE CRIME

From the Lemonade War series , Vol. 2

This sequel to The Lemonade War (2007), picking up just a few days later, focuses on how the fourth graders take justice into their own hands after learning that the main suspect in the case of the missing lemonade-stand money now owns the latest in game-box technology.

Siblings Evan and Jessie (who skipped third grade because of her precocity) are sure Scott Spencer stole the $208 from Evan’s shorts and want revenge, especially as Scott’s new toy makes him the most popular kid in class, despite his personal shortcomings. Jessie’s solution is to orchestrate a full-blown trial by jury after school, while Evan prefers to challenge Scott in basketball. Neither channel proves satisfactory for the two protagonists (whose rational and emotional reactions are followed throughout the third-person narrative), though, ultimately, the matter is resolved. Set during the week of Yom Kippur, the story raises beginning questions of fairness, integrity, sin and atonement. Like John Grisham's Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer (2010), much of the book is taken up with introducing courtroom proceedings for a fourth-grade level of understanding. Chapter headings provide definitions  (“due diligence,” “circumstantial evidence,” etc.) and explanation cards/documents drawn by Jessie are interspersed.

Readers will enjoy this sequel from a plot perspective and will learn how to play-act a trial, though they may not engage with the characters enough to care about how the justice actually pans out. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-27967-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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The second installment in this spirited series is a hit.

WAYS TO GROW LOVE

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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