Fun accompanied by useful life lessons.



From the Lucy McGee series , Vol. 1

Nine-year-old Lucy McGee is enduring the type of manipulative bullying that’s familiar to many grade schoolers.

Popular Scarlett (whose bedroom features white carpeting!) invites her to join a new crafts club at her house. Lucy is supposed to be attending a school club, but who can turn down an invitation from someone like Scarlett? Sadly, the first club meeting only involves Lucy cleaning out the filthy garden shed while Scarlett crafts decorations. The following week, Scarlett convinces Lucy to take paint from the art room, telling her the teacher has given permission. Not only is that a lie, but when the pair gets to Scarlett’s house, it’s Lucy who has to do the messy wall painting while Scarlett rests. Bedazzled by Scarlett, Lucy repeatedly skips the Songwriting Club started by Phillip, a nice classmate who could use a friend. With brief text, characters are only sketched but are fully recognizable nonetheless. Thanks to Phillip’s friendly overtures, her parents’ gentle guidance, and some soul-searching, spirited Lucy eventually finds a better path to walk than being Scarlett’s hapless sycophant, offering a nondidactic message to readers as well. Lucy and Scarlett appear white in Meserve’s humorous sketches, but Phillip’s skin is a shade darker. The children’s spontaneous songs—all cleverly rhymed—are included along with a link to an online audio version.

Fun accompanied by useful life lessons. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3871-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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


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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A fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers.


From the Kate the Chemist series

A fifth grade girl brings her love of chemistry to the school play.

Kate loves science so much she’s determined to breathe fire. Of course she knows that she needs adult supervision, and so, with her science teacher’s help, Kate demonstrates an experiment with cornstarch and a blowtorch that nearly sets her teacher’s cactus on fire. Consequences ensue. Can someone who loves science as much as Kate does find pleasure spending her fall break at drama camp? It turns out that even the school play—Dragons vs. Unicorns—needs a chemist, though, and Kate saves the day with glue and glitter. She’s sabotaged along the way, but everything is fine after Kate and her frenemy agree to communicate better (an underwhelming response to escalating bullying). Doodles decorate the pages; steps for the one experiment described that can be done at home—making glittery unicorn-horn glue—are included. The most exciting experiments depicted, though, include flames or liquid nitrogen and could only be done with the help of a friendly science teacher. Biberdorf teaches chemistry at the University of Texas and also performs science-education programs as “Kate the Chemist”; in addition to giving her protagonist her name and enthusiasm, she also seems represented in Kate-the-character’s love of the fictional YouTube personality “Dr. Caroline.” Kate and her nemesis are white; Kate’s best friends are black and South Asian.

A fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11655-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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