A traditional hero gets a courageous, compassionate makeover in this pleasing, well-illustrated story.

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JACK AND THE LEAN STALK

In a twist on a familiar fairy tale, Jack rescues the bean crop and a sad Giant in this children’s book.

Young Jack Garbanzo lives with his parents. They’re farmers, but Jack prefers carpentry. The Garbanzos’ field of magical beanstalks has lost its enchantment and turned spindly ever since a green-skinned, droopy-eyed young Giant slipped from his cloud and fell into town. Ostracized and mocked, he’s been hiding in the bean field, where he sobs salty tears of misery every night. With the family’s bean harvest threatened, Jack ventures out one night to ask the Giant why he’s crying. He explains that “I’m a nice guy...well, Giant. I miss my mom, dad, and my cat, Puss ’N Boots.” He regrets ruining the crops but can’t go home now by climbing a beanstalk; the weakened plants won’t support his weight. Taking pity on the unfairly maligned Giant, Jack uses his woodworking skills to build a huge spiral staircase surrounding the tallest stalk. As he’s working, the townspeople come to appreciate the friendly Giant, and everyone says an affectionate goodbye when he’s finally able to climb home. Howell keeps her anti-bullying fable from becoming too preachy or heavy-handed, explaining simply that the townsfolk “did not like the clumsy Giant child who didn’t look like them.” Humor, often bean-themed, also uplifts the tale, as with the Garbanzos living in the town of Pinto. Gledhill’s well-composed, richly colored illustrations add another layer of whimsy through details such as fairies teasing the Giant’s pet frog. The mix of classic fairy-tale elements with an updated sensibility works well, and Jack is an appealingly brave and kindhearted hero, sneaking out in the middle of the night to visit the Giant everyone else fears or scorns.

A traditional hero gets a courageous, compassionate makeover in this pleasing, well-illustrated story.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64764-667-7

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2020

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A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.

HORRIBLE HARRY SAYS GOODBYE

From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

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. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for...

DOG DAYS

From the Carver Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A gentle voice and familiar pitfalls characterize this tale of a boy navigating the risky road to responsibility. 

Gavin is new to his neighborhood and Carver Elementary. He likes his new friend, Richard, and has a typically contentious relationship with his older sister, Danielle. When Gavin’s desire to impress Richard sets off a disastrous chain of events, the boy struggles to evade responsibility for his actions. “After all, it isn’t his fault that Danielle’s snow globe got broken. Sure, he shouldn’t have been in her room—but then, she shouldn’t be keeping candy in her room to tempt him. Anybody would be tempted. Anybody!” opines Gavin once he learns the punishment for his crime. While Gavin has a charming Everyboy quality, and his aversion to Aunt Myrtle’s yapping little dog rings true, little about Gavin distinguishes him from other trouble-prone protagonists. He is, regrettably, forgettable. Coretta Scott King Honor winner English (Francie, 1999) is a teacher whose storytelling usually benefits from her day job. Unfortunately, the pizzazz of classroom chaos is largely absent from this series opener.

This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for subsequent volumes. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-97044-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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