From the Party Diaries series , Vol. 2

A predictable but promising second book in a new series.

A young entrepreneur faces her toughest challenge yet.

Fresh from the success of planning family friend Layla Aunty’s birthday party, Priya—elementary schooler and founder of Priya’s Parties—is excited (and nervous) to begin her next job: a henna party for Layla Aunty’s teenage niece, Tara. When Tara suggests a “galaxy desert” theme, Priya plans out a set of creative DIY decorations and desserts. Priya’s support system is essential to the party’s execution: Family friends Neda Aunty and Padma Aunty do the henna designs, Priya’s grandmother helps her bake the cake, and Priya’s best friend, Melissa, lends a hand with making decorations. But while the last party was for adults, this one is for a high schooler and one she doesn’t know well—a situation that fills Priya with self-doubt. Will she be able to pull off the perfect party, or will her new assignment be too hard to fulfill? The second volume in the Party Diaries series slightly widens Priya’s world, introducing new characters and conflicts, and delving more into Priya’s inner life. However, the plot is very similar to that of the previous book, with only the details changed. While the author’s subtle characterization shows potential, it remains to be seen whether the series will branch into new territory or remain formulaic. Priya, her family, and most of her family friends are of South Asian descent; Melissa presents White.

A predictable but promising second book in a new series. (Chapter book. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 9781338799828

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2023


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


From the Franklin School Friends series

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading.

When Franklin School principal Mr. Boone announces a pet-show fundraiser, white third-grader Cody—whose lack of skill and interest in academics is matched by keen enthusiasm for and knowledge of animals—discovers his time to shine.

As with other books in this series, the children and adults are believable and well-rounded. Even the dialogue is natural—no small feat for a text easily accessible to intermediate readers. Character growth occurs, organically and believably. Students occasionally, humorously, show annoyance with teachers: “He made mad squinty eyes at Mrs. Molina, which fortunately she didn’t see.” Readers will be kept entertained by Cody’s various problems and the eventual solutions. His problems include needing to raise $10 to enter one of his nine pets in the show (he really wants to enter all of them), his troublesome dog Angus—“a dog who ate homework—actually, who ate everything and then threw up afterward”—struggles with homework, and grappling with his best friend’s apparently uncaring behavior toward a squirrel. Serious values and issues are explored with a light touch. The cheery pencil illustrations show the school’s racially diverse population as well as the memorable image of Mr. Boone wearing an elephant costume. A minor oddity: why does a child so immersed in animal facts call his male chicken a rooster but his female chickens chickens?

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30223-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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