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From the Party Diaries series , Vol. 1

A layered, upbeat tale starring a determined, relatable protagonist.

When Priya Chakraborty starts her own party-planning business, her community comes through to help her succeed—and to calm her anxiety.

Priya, a young South Asian American girl, loves crafts, her best friend, Melissa (depicted as light-skinned in the illustrations), and quokkas, fuzzy Australian animals in danger of extinction. What she doesn’t love are surprises. So when her mother’s best friend, Layla Aunty, asks Priya to throw her birthday party, Priya uses her diary to stay organized and avoid the unexpected. While she’s excited about Layla Aunty’s orange-themed party, she’s also anxious and overwhelmed: There are orange snacks to prepare, orange decorations to make, and orange invitations to deliver. Luckily, Priya doesn’t have to do any of this alone: Melissa helps her deliver invitations, her Dida helps her make snacks, and, on the day of the party, her mother’s friends help her decorate. Thanks to Priya’s creativity, the day is a resounding success—such a success, in fact, that it leads to even more business for Priya’s Parties. Priya is a well-rounded, nuanced protagonist whose enthusiasm and anxiety will resonate with readers, and the narrative, peppered with bright images, is fast-moving. The text offers pronunciation guidance for potentially unfamiliar words, such as quokka or the various snacks for the party (jalebi, chevdo, etc.).

A layered, upbeat tale starring a determined, relatable protagonist. (Chapter book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-338-79962-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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A Christmas cozy, read straight or bit by bit through the season.

Neither snow nor rain nor mountains of yummy cheese stay the carrier of a letter to Santa.

So carelessly does 8-year-old Oliver stuff his very late letter to Santa into the mailbox that it falls out behind his back—leaving Winston, a “small, grubby white mouse” with an outsized heart, determined to deliver it personally though he has no idea where to go. Smith presents Winston’s Christmas Eve trek in 24 minichapters, each assigned a December “day” and all closing with both twists or cliffhangers and instructions (mostly verbal, unfortunately) for one or more holiday-themed recipes or craft projects. Though he veers occasionally into preciosity (Winston “tried to ignore the grumbling, rumbling noises coming from his tummy”), he also infuses his holiday tale with worthy values. Occasional snowy scenes have an Edwardian look appropriate to the general tone, with a white default in place but a few dark-skinned figures in view. Less-crafty children will struggle with the scantly illustrated projects, which run from paper snowflakes to clothespin dolls and Christmas crackers with or without “snaps,” but lyrics to chestnuts like “The 12 Days of Christmas” (and “Jingle Bells,” which is not a Christmas song, but never mind) at the end invite everyone to sing along.

A Christmas cozy, read straight or bit by bit through the season. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68412-983-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Silver Dolphin

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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From the Invisible Inkling series , Vol. 2

Appealing any time of the year.

Brooklyn fourth-grader Hank Wolowitz faces his worst Halloween ever when his invisible friend, Inkling, discovers that pumpkins are his favorite kind of food.

It's hard enough to keep the bandapat in the laundry basket a secret from his parents, his sister, Nadia, his downstairs neighbor Chin and his classmates. Just keeping him fed takes all the pay from his job at the family ice-cream parlor, and he's had to invent a top-secret project to explain all the squash he's been buying. When Inkling goes bananas and chews up Nadia's artwork—four intricately carved pumpkins—Hank takes the blame for the violence. Worse, although his father had promised to use one of his ideas for their special Halloween ice-cream flavor this year, they are advertising his sister's stupid candy crunch. Finally, he has no one to go trick-or-treating with. Hank’s first-person narration is appropriately self-pitying. But while his unseen pet can cause trouble, the bandapat also helps. Gentle humor and a realistic urban setting add interest to this solid middle-grade read. Unlike Hank, readers can actually see the bandapat in Bliss’ gray-scale cartoons. (Final art not seen.) Events of the first book (Invisible Inkling, 2011) are summarized early on, and Jenkins introduces her characters and the situation so smoothly that readers can easily start here.

Appealing any time of the year. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-180223-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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