LEADING LADIES

Megan Merrill would be satisfied to do any kind of solo for her fourth-grade class, even a polka, until her teacher and a musical-theater specialist team up to organize a musical version of The Wizard of Oz. There’s a fierce competition for the part of Dorothy, complicated by her best friend at camp vying for it, but Megan’s creativity and personality win her the part. Though Megan is a fully developed, likable character and is exciting, not everything is. Her family and friends are foils supporting her; their motivations are dim. When the Merrills’ new family dog, Solo, gets on stage as Toto, his ability to bark in rhythm to a comic musical routine is not believable despite intense short-term practice. Other characters, such as Cindy, who’ve been developed in the series, are shadowy here, so reading the series in order is recommended. It’s Megan and her feelings about being deaf in a mainstream world that offer insight to the majority of readers: Those who are hearing will understand more of the complexities of growing up deaf in a hearing society, and those who are deaf will recognize themselves. This rare glimpse into the life of a child growing up deaf is an invaluable contribution to juvenile fiction. Seeing Megan again in print as a fifth-grader would be a pleasure. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-689-86987-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2007

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Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE

Ryan Hart is navigating the fourth grade and all its challenges with determination.

Her mom named her Ryan because it means “king,” and she wanted Ryan to feel powerful every time she heard her name; Ryan knows it means she is a leader. So when changes occur or disaster strikes, budding chef Ryan does her best to find the positive and “make sunshine.” When her dad is laid off from the post office, the family must make adjustments that include moving into a smaller house, selling their car, and changing how they shop for groceries. But Ryan gets to stay at Vernon Elementary, and her mom still finds a way to get her the ingredients she needs to practice new recipes. Her older brother, Ray, can be bossy, but he finds little ways to support her, especially when she is down—as does the whole family. Each episodic chapter confronts Ryan with a situation; intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching, they should be familiar and accessible to readers, as when Ryan fumbles her Easter speech despite careful practice. Ryan, her family, and friends are black, and Watson continues to bring visibility to both Portland, Oregon, generally and its black community specifically, making another wonderful contribution that allows black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love.

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0056-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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HOW TO BE COOL IN THE THIRD GRADE

Robbie's somewhat overstated aim is to create a new image for himself by taking steps like avoiding his mother's company on the way to the bus stop each morning, trading in his superhero underwear for plain white, and getting jeans. If his goals seem small and unassuming, so is Robbie; and his solutions—in one instance, simply asking his mother for what he wants instead of expecting her to mind-read—are ingenuously on target. But though Duffey is well tuned in to third-grade cool, she includes a stereotypical bully, held back a year and ready to tangle with anyone who looks at him the wrong way; worse, references to coolness and what kind of year Robbie is having are annoyingly repetitious. Nevertheless, modest aspirations mean modest rewards: readers Robbie's age will be glad to find their own concerns on nearly every page. Illustrations not seen. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-670-84798-4

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1993

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