DONAVAN’S DOUBLE TROUBLE

African-American fourth grader Donavan still keeps the word jar he started in third grade, so big words are easy. His problem is math; his friends Pooh and Eric decide Donavan has a math block. This is compounded by the return of his favorite uncle Vic who lost both legs below the knee in the war. Donavan doesn’t know how to relate to this new Uncle Vic, who was both a firefighter and a basketball star. Donavan’s family wants Uncle Vic to display his carvings at the school’s Heritage Month, but Donavan doesn’t want kids asking his uncle stupid questions and staring. When Uncle Vic helps out with a math strategy and talks to Donavan about his disability, Donavan realizes tackling hard problems is a major part of life. DeGross’s overlong and, at times, didactic follow-up to Donavan’s Word Jar (1994) does feature a realistically conflicted and charming main character. Libraries seeking bibliotherapy for young relatives of disabled veterans might want to add this to their collections, as should those seeking chapter books starring African-American kids. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-077293-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2007

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THE LEMONADE WAR

From the Lemonade War series , Vol. 1

Told from the point of view of two warring siblings, this could have been an engaging first chapter book. Unfortunately, the length makes it less likely to appeal to the intended audience. Jessie and Evan are usually good friends as well as sister and brother. But the news that bright Jessie will be skipping a grade to join Evan’s fourth-grade class creates tension. Evan believes himself to be less than clever; Jessie’s emotional maturity doesn’t quite measure up to her intelligence. Rivalry and misunderstandings grow as the two compete to earn the most money in the waning days of summer. The plot rolls along smoothly and readers will be able to both follow the action and feel superior to both main characters as their motivations and misconceptions are clearly displayed. Indeed, a bit more subtlety in characterization might have strengthened the book’s appeal. The final resolution is not entirely believable, but the emphasis on cooperation and understanding is clear. Earnest and potentially successful, but just misses the mark. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 23, 2007

ISBN: 0-618-75043-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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Funny, silly, and fairly empathetic—and perhaps even consoling to young, impulsive people who hope to be better (someday).

THE BEST OF IGGY

The portrait of a boy as a young rascal: Iggy doesn’t really mean to be “bad,” does he?

A narrator in an amusing direct address and somewhat adult voice serves as both apologist and somewhat bemused observer of three incidents recounted in 20 very short chapters. Iggy Frangi is 9 and in fourth grade. He likes his teacher and tolerates his family—mother, father, sisters Maribel (older) and Molly (younger). Like many people his age, Iggy doesn’t realize that something is wrong with what he is doing until either he is in the middle of doing it (and is reprimanded) or until it’s too late. Ricks’ cartoon illustrations portray Iggy and his family as white-presenting and his lively friends as slim boys with dark skin of various shades. In the first story Iggy defends his own honor and dignity with a strategy involving a skateboard, ladder, and trampoline in a way that only just avoids complete disaster. In the second, Iggy’s flair for going big gets slightly out of hand when he “los[es] his mind” in an incident involving shaving cream and lipstick. The third story involves his teacher and a minor injury and is an incident Iggy regrets “even years later.” Authorial asides combine with amusing cartoons (the universal strikethrough symbol is enlivened by repetitions of “nope” forming the outer circle) to enlist readers as co-conspirators.

Funny, silly, and fairly empathetic—and perhaps even consoling to young, impulsive people who hope to be better (someday). (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1330-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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