Hughes is to be commended, and his book recommended, for balancing its realism with its positive message.


Firefightin' Sam

This debut YA novel about an aspiring firefighter aims to entertain and inform young readers while also keeping them on the straight and narrow.

Author Hughes, himself a firefighter, builds a story around a prank gone wrong. On a dare from his friend Pete Krause, Sam Avery conspires in setting off a fire alarm and gets caught by the police. Due in part to his own code of silence (he won’t rat out Pete), Sam’s punishment is to spend time after school at the nearby fire station—but it quickly becomes no punishment at all. Although he’s continually reminded of the gravity of his prank, the firefighters recognize him for the good kid that he is and adopt him, as it were. Sam is fascinated by the firefighting equipment, the drills, the dispatching procedures—all of it. He even gets the errant Pete, who’s starting down the wrong path in life, to join him in the “maze truck” for a simulation of a house fire that allows trainees to rescue dummies hidden inside. In the end, Sam, of course, sets his sights on being a firefighter himself. Overall, this is a well-written book for its intended audience. It’s hardly nuanced—the good grown-ups, such as Sam’s parents, have stilted dialogue that bolsters the message but makes them seem like cardboard cutouts. On the other hand, the flak that Sam gets from his schoolmates rings true, as does his response to it. One high point of the story is the school’s entertainment night: with the help of the firefighters, Sam and Pete put on a skit demonstrating fire safety that brings the house down. Another highlight, at book’s end, is Sam’s involvement in rescuing a neighborhood curmudgeon, “Pepperhead” Pepperell, from his burning house; just as Pete’s life is set on a new path, the lonely widower is encouraged to rejoin the human race. 

Hughes is to be commended, and his book recommended, for balancing its realism with its positive message.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2002

ISBN: 978-0-595-74546-3

Page Count: 122

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2016

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 1

First volume of a planned three, this edited version of an ongoing online serial records a middle-school everykid’s triumphs and (more often) tribulations through the course of a school year. Largely through his own fault, mishaps seem to plague Greg at every turn, from the minor freak-outs of finding himself permanently seated in class between two pierced stoners and then being saddled with his mom for a substitute teacher, to being forced to wrestle in gym with a weird classmate who has invited him to view his “secret freckle.” Presented in a mix of legible “hand-lettered” text and lots of simple cartoon illustrations with the punch lines often in dialogue balloons, Greg’s escapades, unwavering self-interest and sardonic commentary are a hoot and a half—certain to elicit both gales of giggles and winces of sympathy (not to mention recognition) from young readers. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8109-9313-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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