Fans of world-record quests and those who enjoy lighthearted tales will savor Teddy’s efforts.



From the Teddy Mars series , Vol. 1

After discovering The Guinness Book of World Records, Teddy’s determined to achieve a world record, too.

How can a 10-year-old manage it? He’s constrained by his six remarkable siblings, all marching to the beats of their own drummers, a device debut author Burnham uses to make each of them readily distinguishable. The most difficult, from Teddy’s viewpoint, is 4-year-old Jake, aka “The Destructor,” who shares Teddy’s bedroom, enjoys napping in a (clean) cat box and often unintentionally destroys Teddy’s belongings. Teddy gets a tent for his birthday, then pitches it in the backyard and moves out. That provides the opportunity to learn more about the 57 pigeons owned by his grumpy, elderly next-door neighbor, who hires him to care for the birds. The pigeons could be his key to a world record, if, with lots of peanut-buttered birdseed and helpful friends, they’ll all land on him at once. As revealed in his engaging, age-appropriate, first-person narration, things rarely work out as planned. Although they provide ample drama, Teddy’s large family is—unexpectedly—engaged in his pratfall-riddled pursuit. Bizarre actual world records are neatly incorporated into the narrative. Ample white space, large print and Spencer’s drolly entertaining illustrations inflate the page count somewhat for the younger middle-grade audience.

Fans of world-record quests and those who enjoy lighthearted tales will savor Teddy’s efforts. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-227810-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new...

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How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.

Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human—except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers’ passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout.

Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-199225-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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