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From the Angel Wings series , Vol. 1

With its simplistic plotting and cardboard characterization, this series opener is less than heavenly.

Mean girls and magic at a school for aspiring guardian angels.

Third-grader Ella is a member of the new class at Guardian Angel Academy, where, through good deeds, young angels earn stamps on their halo cards. The stamps translate to color-changing halos (rather like karate belts), which culminate in the diamond halo that means an angel is ready to be a guardian angel. The students can lose stamps too, for bad behavior. Outgoing Ella—who quickly becomes close with her three dorm-mates—has to suppress her drive for adventure and keep her temper under lock. She is challenged by one-dimensional, priggish mean-girl Primrose, who manipulates Ella’s short fuse, baiting her into misbehavior. When Ella learns that her friend Tilly is miserable from homesickness, she sneaks away from the school to an off-limits location to collect a magical remembering flower to cheer her pal up. A predictable kerfuffle ensues. The uniformly female angels are easiest to tell apart by hairstyle, especially in the attractive, cherubic black-and-white illustrations; though one looks to have light-brown skin on the cover, in the interior illustrations they all appear to be white. The secular angels use magic instead of religious mythology.

With its simplistic plotting and cardboard characterization, this series opener is less than heavenly. (Fantasy. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5798-9

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.

A long-running series reaches its closing chapters.

Having, as Kline notes in her warm valedictory acknowledgements, taken 30 years to get through second and third grade, Harry Spooger is overdue to move on—but not just into fourth grade, it turns out, as his family is moving to another town as soon as the school year ends. The news leaves his best friend, narrator “Dougo,” devastated…particularly as Harry doesn’t seem all that fussed about it. With series fans in mind, the author takes Harry through a sort of last-day-of-school farewell tour. From his desk he pulls a burned hot dog and other items that featured in past episodes, says goodbye to Song Lee and other classmates, and even (for the first time ever) leads Doug and readers into his house and memento-strewn room for further reminiscing. Of course, Harry isn’t as blasé about the move as he pretends, and eyes aren’t exactly dry when he departs. But hardly is he out of sight before Doug is meeting Mohammad, a new neighbor from Syria who (along with further diversifying a cast that began as mostly white but has become increasingly multiethnic over the years) will also be starting fourth grade at summer’s end, and planning a written account of his “horrible” buddy’s exploits. Finished illustrations not seen.

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47963-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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From the Bea Garcia series , Vol. 4

A funny and timely primer for budding activists.

Problems are afoot at Emily Dickinson Elementary School, and it’s up to Bea Garcia to gather the troops and fight.

Bea Garcia and her best friend, Judith Einstein, sit every day under the 250-year-old oak tree in their schoolyard and imagine a face in its trunk. They name it “Emily” after their favorite American poet. Bea loves to draw both real and imagined pictures of their favorite place—the squirrels in the tree, the branches that reach for the sky, the view from the canopy even though she’s never climbed that high. Until the day a problem boy does climb that high, pelting the kids with acorns and then getting stuck. Bert causes such a scene that the school board declares Emily a nuisance and decides to chop it down. Bea and Einstein rally their friends with environmental facts, poetry, and artwork to try to convince the adults in their lives to change their minds. Bea must enlist Bert if she wants her plan to succeed. Can she use her imagination and Bert’s love of monsters to get him in line? In Bea’s fourth outing, Zemke gently encourages her protagonist to grow from an artist into an activist. Her energy and passion spill from both her narration and her frequent cartoons, which humorously extend the text. Spanish-speaking Bea’s Latinx, Einstein and Bert present white, and their classmates are diverse.

A funny and timely primer for budding activists. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 6-9)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2941-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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