Young, aspiring singers will enjoy Gracie’s antics—if not her brother’s commentary.

GRACIE BECOMES A ROCK STAR

A girl who loves to sing performs for her family in this series-starting picture book from debut author/illustrator Leftwich.

Narrator Caden, a pale, dark-haired boy with glasses, introduces readers to CedarWood Farms, where he and his similarly pale younger sister, Gracie, visit their grandparents M and Opa. At a family barbecue, Caden and Gracie get bored with the grown-ups’ discussion and decide to go play. Gracie climbs onto a flat rock, pretending it’s a stage; M hands her a faucet knob and pipe for a microphone, and she sings her heart out. Caden is initially leery that the performance is “going to take a while,” but he realizes how special the moment is for his sister; he calls her the “family rock star,” referring, in part, to the stone stage. The story has no real conflict, as the talented Gracie’s family loves and supports her. That said, Caden’s dismissive tone may frustrate readers who identify with Gracie; he also embraces a stereotype by calling his sister “all girl” because she loves dressing up and dancing. The flat, cartoon illustrations, featuring the narrator directly facing readers, have the effect of reinforcing his know-it-all tone. The vocabulary is appropriate for younger readers, and its relative ease will make the long paragraphs approachable.

Young, aspiring singers will enjoy Gracie’s antics—if not her brother’s commentary.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4808-6375-0

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2018

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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

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Dizzyingly silly.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TYRANNICAL RETALIATION OF THE TURBO TOILET 2000

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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