THE BUDDY BENCH

A story inspired by a real-life effort to achieve social inclusion.

Rhyming text enriched by energetic, cartoon-style illustrations follows the diverse students in Miss Mellon’s class at recess. Most of the children dive into play with peers, but some feel timid or excluded. Those at play are initially oblivious to the discomfort of the others, but then a child named Jake notices someone using a crutch and hanging back from play. “ ‘It’s my leg,’ said Gabe. ‘I can’t run in a cast, / so I never get picked, not even last.’ ” Affable Jake responds, “Come play with us anyway. There’s time to spare,” causing Gabe to reply, “Wait a minute …I’ll be right there.” This interaction creates a compassionate domino effect of inclusion, with Gabe reaching out to another kid on the sidelines, and so on. When the children (and, oddly, an elephant and dragon) go inside after recess they ask, “how could we say, / without using words, that we all want to play?” Miss Mellon says they need “a seat / to wait for a friend or a buddy to meet.” It’s unfortunate the solution—the eponymous buddy bench—originates with an adult rather than the compassionate children themselves, especially since the author’s note reveals that it was a first grader who proposed the first one in the United States, but the generosity on display is heartening.

Inviting. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-88448-697-8

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character

PEDRO, FIRST-GRADE HERO

From the Pedro series , Vol. 1

The creators of the Katie Woo series turn their focus to a peripheral character, first-grader Pedro—Katie’s friend and schoolmate.

Four short chapters—“Pedro Goes Buggy,” “Pedro’s Big Goal,” “Pedro’s Mystery Club,” and “Pedro For President”—highlight a Latino main character surrounded by a superbly diverse cast. At times unsure of himself, Pedro is extremely likable, for he wants to do his best and is a fair friend. He consistently comes out on top, even when his younger brother releases all the bugs he’s captured for a class assignment or when self-assured bully Roddy tries to unite opposition to Pedro’s female opponent (Katie Woo) in the race for first-grade class president. Using a third-person, past-tense narrative voice, Manushkin expands her repertoire by adding a hero comparable to EllRay Jakes. What is refreshing about the book is that for the most part, aside from Roddy’s gender-based bullying, the book overcomes boy-girl stereotypes: girls and boys play soccer, boys and girls run for president, girls and boys hunt for bugs, all setting a progressive standard for chapter books. With mixed-media illustrations featuring colorful bugs, soccer action, a mystery hunt, and a presidential campaign, Lyon’s attention to detail in color and facial expressions complements the story nicely.

This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character . (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5158-0112-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Picture Window Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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PUG BLASTS OFF

From the Diary of a Pug series , Vol. 1

A cuddly, squishy pug’s puggy-wuggy diary.

Equipped with both #pugunicorn and #pughotdog outfits, pug Baron von Bubbles (aka Bub) is the kind of dog that always dresses to impress. Bub also makes lots of memorable faces, such as the “Hey, you’re not the boss of me!” expression aimed at Duchess, the snooty pink house cat. Some of Bub’s favorite things include skateboarding, a favorite teddy, and eating peanut butter. Bub also loves Bella, who adopted Bub from a fair—it was “love at first sniff.” Together, Bub and Bella do a lot of arts and crafts. Their latest project: entering Bella’s school’s inventor challenge by making a super-duper awesome rocket. But, when the pesky neighborhood squirrel, Nutz, makes off with Bub’s bear, Bub accidentally ruins their project. How will they win the contest? More importantly, how will Bella ever forgive him? May’s cutesy, full-color cartoon art sets the tone for this pug-tastic romp for the new-to–chapter-books crowd. Emojilike faces accentuate Bub’s already expressive character design. Bub’s infectious first-person narration pushes the silly factor off the charts. In addition to creating the look and feel of a diary, the lined paper helps readers follow the eight-chapter story. Most pages have fewer than five sentences, often broken into smaller sections. Additional text appears in color-coded speech bubbles. Bella presents white.

Totes adorbs. (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-53003-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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