The Big Something doesn’t end up amounting to much in this lackluster beginning reader.
As the first in the planned Fiercely and Friends series, the text amounts to more exposition than narrative substance. Jilli’s dog Fiercely digs a hole under a fence, and though she frets that he is “digging straight down to China” he ends up in the neighboring yard. Peeping through a hole in the fence, Jilli and Jim (children will ask whether he's her friend or her brother—the text is unclear) see workers “building a Big Red Something.” Also in the next yard is a mysterious woman wearing a witch’s hat and standing on a ladder to paint ice-cream cones and gumdrops on the structure’s walls, making it akin to the witch’s house in "Hansel and Gretel." Curious, Jilli and Jim go to a shed to don disguises (and pause to eat gummy bears stuck to its floor). Then they use a gummy bear to entice Fiercely to return, which provokes the painting woman to come talk with them. Lo and behold, she isn’t a witch, but Ms. Berry, “the nicest teacher.” She tells the children that The Big Red Something is a “new school” and they follow her into the yard to help her paint. Palmisciano’s watercolor illustrations visually describe the text but stop short of adding engaging detail or expansion.
A disappointment from a noted writer in an era when outstanding early readers abound. (Early reader. 5-7)