A pleasantly complex early school story.

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FRANKIE SPARKS AND THE CLASS PET

From the Frankie Sparks, Third-Grade Inventor series

When her teacher announces that the class will be getting a pet, rodent lover Frankie Sparks knows exactly what it should be—she just needs to convince everyone else.

Frankie’s aunt is a rodentologist, so Frankie has a prime resource to help her determine which rodent would make a good class pet—because of course they will get a rodent…right? Frankie, who is more adept at math and inventing than at reading and writing, is nevertheless so excited that she does her research right away and is ready to present her arguments for getting a rat before anyone else. But her teacher insists that she respect the process. Frankie is disappointed, but things get worse when her best friend, Maya, tells her that she really doesn’t want a rodent—in fact, she’s scared of them. When Maya hits a stumbling block in her research, Frankie seizes the opportunity to pressure her into voting for a rat. With some advice from her mom, Frankie finally gets a grip and realizes that her friendship, complete with differences, is more important than a rat. As a chapter-book protagonist, Frankie is pleasingly well-developed, with a full range of emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. Frankie and her family are depicted as black, and other classmates are realistically diverse, conveyed in both text and Sarell’s black-and-white illustrations. Endnotes explain “problem scoping” and encourage readers to invent.

A pleasantly complex early school story. (Fiction. 6-11)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3044-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Thought-provoking and charming.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

THE WILD ROBOT

A sophisticated robot—with the capacity to use senses of sight, hearing, and smell—is washed to shore on an island, the only robot survivor of a cargo of 500.

When otters play with her protective packaging, the robot is accidently activated. Roz, though without emotions, is intelligent and versatile. She can observe and learn in service of both her survival and her principle function: to help. Brown links these basic functions to the kind of evolution Roz undergoes as she figures out how to stay dry and intact in her wild environment—not easy, with pine cones and poop dropping from above, stormy weather, and a family of cranky bears. She learns to understand and eventually speak the language of the wild creatures (each species with its different “accent”). An accident leaves her the sole protector of a baby goose, and Roz must ask other creatures for help to shelter and feed the gosling. Roz’s growing connection with her environment is sweetly funny, reminiscent of Randall Jarrell’s The Animal Family. At every moment Roz’s actions seem plausible and logical yet surprisingly full of something like feeling. Robot hunters with guns figure into the climax of the story as the outside world intrudes. While the end to Roz’s benign and wild life is startling and violent, Brown leaves Roz and her companions—and readers—with hope.

Thought-provoking and charming. (Science fiction/fantasy. 7-11)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-38199-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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