Young readers will be happy to make Azaleah’s acquaintance.

THE AMAZING LIFE OF AZALEAH LANE

From the Azaleah Lane series

When her baby sister, Tiana, realizes her favorite stuffed frog, Greenie, is missing, Azaleah promises to help her find him—but will she have enough time to help Tiana and complete her school project?

Third grader Azaleah Lane is anxious to get home and start her diorama of Nikita the tiger after a visit to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. However, before she can get started, she must help Tiana find Greenie. Oldest sister Nia is of little help, as she’s busy preparing to play Dorothy in her middle school production of The Wiz. In order to complete her diorama and help Tiana solve the mystery of Greenie’s disappearance, Azaleah must prioritize her tasks and pay attention to the clues around her. This inaugural book in the Azaleah Lane series is a fast-paced and fun read, and Azaleah is a sympathetic, likable narrator who, like readers, is learning new vocabulary all the time. She thinks aloud as she works to solve the mystery, occasionally (and realistically) losing patience with the sobbing Tiana. Lobo’s playful, full-color illustrations every few pages are just enough to give transitioning readers needed rests so they’ll keep going; they depict Azaleah and her family as black. The backmatter includes a glossary of vocabulary words, book-discussion and writing prompts, and instructions for making a diorama.

Young readers will be happy to make Azaleah’s acquaintance. (Mystery. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5158-4464-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Picture Window Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A heartfelt forward pass from one generation to the next (and the next).

MY FOOTBALL FAMILY

A pigskin-themed paean to family and family traditions.

As images depict a football-shaped newborn growing up, marrying, and helping to produce another—the second actually dressed in a football onesie, which is adorable—sports podcaster Holloway notes rookie season fumbles and triumphs, team huddles on the sofa to watch the big games, the passage of quarters and seasons, and major life events (like the wedding: “One day you may get drafted / To a franchise of your own”). All the while, Holloway promises to cheer from the sidelines in victory or defeat, to be there when needed, and to give each “wonderful expansion / of our football family” both a welcome and proper coaching. The family in Jang’s shiny, reasonably realistic illustrations includes three children. The verse’s language is nonspecific enough to apply to offspring of any gender as well as adoptees. In school settings and on playing fields of several sorts, the child, at various ages, light-skinned like their parents, joins a diverse group of peers, including one wearing a hijab and another who uses a hearing aid, while the child’s own family includes a dark-skinned sibling and, by the end, a child with, like their spouse, Asian features. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A heartfelt forward pass from one generation to the next (and the next). (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-84715-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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