A quietly reassuring story showing that change can be a good thing at times.

READ REVIEW

LUCY CASTOR FINDS HER SPARKLE

Lucy Castor does not like change, but the weekend before she enters fourth grade her world begins to change anyway. How will Lucy cope?

After spending the summer away, Lucy comes home to find her best friend, Ella, has new friends, and they no longer have anything in common. Her teenage neighbor, Chloe, makes her nervous with her piercings and vibrantly colored hair. And worst of all, Lucy’s mother is expecting twins. Featuring an all-white cast of characters, the story takes place in the small fictional town of Hawthorne, Massachusetts. As the household routines change to accommodate for Mrs. Castor’s difficult pregnancy, Lucy must learn to deal with her anger and anxiety. Though giving up on her friendship with Ella hurts, she also learns to make new friends. And when Chloe comes to work in her house, she learns there is more to a person than appearances. Though the ending is predictable, it is Lucy’s journey toward that end that will keep readers engaged. There is a certain quaint quality to the story, starting with the niceness of all the characters and including some Briticisms here and there—high school teacher Mr. Castor doesn’t grade, he “marks”; the babies wear “nappies”—yet the story manages to avoid saccharine sweetness.

A quietly reassuring story showing that change can be a good thing at times. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0196-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE

Ryan Hart is navigating the fourth grade and all its challenges with determination.

Her mom named her Ryan because it means “king,” and she wanted Ryan to feel powerful every time she heard her name; Ryan knows it means she is a leader. So when changes occur or disaster strikes, budding chef Ryan does her best to find the positive and “make sunshine.” When her dad is laid off from the post office, the family must make adjustments that include moving into a smaller house, selling their car, and changing how they shop for groceries. But Ryan gets to stay at Vernon Elementary, and her mom still finds a way to get her the ingredients she needs to practice new recipes. Her older brother, Ray, can be bossy, but he finds little ways to support her, especially when she is down—as does the whole family. Each episodic chapter confronts Ryan with a situation; intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching, they should be familiar and accessible to readers, as when Ryan fumbles her Easter speech despite careful practice. Ryan, her family, and friends are black, and Watson continues to bring visibility to both Portland, Oregon, generally and its black community specifically, making another wonderful contribution that allows black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love.

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0056-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers.

DRAGONS VS. UNICORNS

From the Kate the Chemist series

A fifth grade girl brings her love of chemistry to the school play.

Kate loves science so much she’s determined to breathe fire. Of course she knows that she needs adult supervision, and so, with her science teacher’s help, Kate demonstrates an experiment with cornstarch and a blowtorch that nearly sets her teacher’s cactus on fire. Consequences ensue. Can someone who loves science as much as Kate does find pleasure spending her fall break at drama camp? It turns out that even the school play—Dragons vs. Unicorns—needs a chemist, though, and Kate saves the day with glue and glitter. She’s sabotaged along the way, but everything is fine after Kate and her frenemy agree to communicate better (an underwhelming response to escalating bullying). Doodles decorate the pages; steps for the one experiment described that can be done at home—making glittery unicorn-horn glue—are included. The most exciting experiments depicted, though, include flames or liquid nitrogen and could only be done with the help of a friendly science teacher. Biberdorf teaches chemistry at the University of Texas and also performs science-education programs as “Kate the Chemist”; in addition to giving her protagonist her name and enthusiasm, she also seems represented in Kate-the-character’s love of the fictional YouTube personality “Dr. Caroline.” Kate and her nemesis are white; Kate’s best friends are black and South Asian.

A fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11655-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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