A well-crafted, emotionally resonant tale for younger readers.

MARIO'S NOTEBOOK

In this middle-grade novel, Atkinson tells the story of a young Salvadoran refugee acclimating to life in the United States.

War has come to the streets of San Salvador, El Salvador’s capital city, but Mario Zamora and his little brother, Nico, just want to act like normal kids. When a soldier in the street takes their soccer ball and slices it open with a knife, Mario is confused: “Why do they have to bother us like that?” he asks his father, a writer, later that day. “We’re only kids. We have nothing to do with the war. Why does there even have to be a war?” When soldiers burst in and arrest Mario’s dad in the middle of the night, the boys and their mother are forced to flee the country. Their plan is to head north through Guatemala and Mexico and into the United States. They soon learn that their father has been murdered by soldiers, his body left in a pile with those of other executed dissidents. As the family attempts to build a new life for themselves in Texas, Mario is haunted by what has happened, filled with a mix of anger and fear. His father left him a notebook with a letter, offering his advice on how to move forward. Mario isn’t interested in writing, but he does have a passion for drawing. In her debut work, Atkinson writes in a smooth, conversational prose that perfectly enlivens Mario’s first-person narration, capturing both his anxieties and excitements. With its quick pace and unflinching willingness to portray the horrors of the Salvadoran political situation, the novella makes for a compelling, if occasionally heavy, read. Along the way, the author successfully tracks the complex evolution of Mario’s inner landscape, including his attempts to deal with the trauma of his father’s loss, his responsibility toward his mother and brother, and his instincts as both a witness and a budding artist: as Mario’s new American identity shapes itself, he uses pictures to try to tell his own story.

A well-crafted, emotionally resonant tale for younger readers.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 97

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S VALENTINE

Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

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

Did you like this book?

more