From the Smashie McPerter Investigates series , Vol. 2

Readers will be hoping for an equally savvy Book 3

Third-grade sleuths Smashie McPerter and Dontel Marquise are back.

Having found classroom pet Patches in Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of Room 11 (2015), the best friends step up again when a classmate’s delicious-smelling “lengthening and molding” hair goop goes missing, threatening the success of the Third-Grade Hair Extravaganza and Musicale. Who could be taking the few precious jars of Herr Goop? Smashie, a white girl who tends to get carried away, and Dontel, a black boy who tends not to, consider motive and opportunity and work to solve the mystery even as the third-graders practice and they themselves choreograph go-go dances to be staged between each act. Griffin concocts a baroque plot involving a secret code credibly based on third-grade math and tells it with SAT–level vocabulary. She contextualizes that vocabulary carefully, sequencing sentences to prepare readers for it. Kids who understand how hard it is for Smashie and Dontel “to join a line of children who were all mad at them” will see how the “frostiness” might be “palpable.” Even if Smashie and her pals don’t talk like 8-year-olds, though, they behave like them, getting carried away with endearing earnestness. Griffin also subtly attacks stereotypes with her multiethnic group of hugely likable kids. Dontel’s dad is a dentist, and a Latina student’s mom is a patent attorney—a fact that also figures into the plot.

Readers will be hoping for an equally savvy Book 3 . (Mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8535-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016


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 Zara's Rules series , Vol. 1

A charming contemporary story with a classic feel.

A 10 ¾-year-old girl weathers changes in her social circle—and her sense of self.

Dubbed “Queen of the Neighborhood” by beloved neighbor Mr. Chapman, who has sadly left Maryland for balmy Florida, Zara is apprehensive when a family with two kids moves into his house, potentially upsetting the delicate social balance. Readers familiar with Khan’s Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream books, set a few years after this series opener, will recognize the bustling Pakistani American Muslim household. Assertive, organized Zara and rambunctious 7-year-old Zayd live with their Mama and Baba; the siblings’ grandparents and uncle are integral parts of their daily lives. Zara and Zayd enjoy playing outside with their friends—Black sisters Jade and Gloria, White Alan, and Chinese American Melvin. Mr. Chapman always said that Zara knew how to “rule with grace and fairness,” but new arrivals Naomi and Michael, Jewish kids who are eager to engage socially, put this to the test. When Jamal Mamoo, Mama’s brother, brings over his Guinness World Records book, Zara decides that becoming a world-record holder is the boost her social status needs. Her humorous (and futile) attempts to make her mark ultimately lead her to being a more patient and understanding big sister and more flexible and supportive companion to friends old and new. Strong pacing, fluid prose, engaging hijinks, and heartwarming scenes of family life and outdoor play are complemented by expressive illustrations.

A charming contemporary story with a classic feel. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-9759-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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