Highly recommended for both its quality of writing and its superb handling of difficult subject matter.

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Rink (Jimi & Isaac 4a: Solar Powered, 2011, etc.) paints a visceral, moving portrait of a young boy whose life is thrown into chaos when his father unexpectedly falls from the roof and receives a potentially life-threatening head injury.

Isaac is a smart kid. He and his father are installing new solar panels on the roof of their house, solar panels made, in fact, with a new chemical mixture that Isaac himself invented. Just as they finish, however, Isaac’s father slips backward and falls off the roof. In short order, he is in the hospital, in critical condition, and Isaac is left to navigate a confusing world of worried mothers, concerned friends and well-intentioned uncles trying to prepare him for the worst. Uncle Bob doesn’t manage to put a dent in Isaac’s initial denial, however, nor does the well-meaning concern of Isaac’s best friend, Jimi. As events progress, it becomes clear that there’s a very real possibility Isaac’s dad may not fully recover. Isaac, boy genius or not, finds himself struggling with the prospect of what life may be like if his father doesn’t recover. Every part of Isaac’s journey is meticulously and thoughtfully drawn. The emotional reality of what is happening to him and his family is conveyed realistically and with tremendous care. This is accomplished not only with clear, excellent prose, but also with insightful characterization. Rink in particular captures the essence of a young boy in the throes of denial over his father’s condition. The interactions between Isaac and Jimi are just the right balance of sincere and awkward, as when Isaac says he can’t wait for his dad to get better: “ ‘He’s going to get better?’ Jimi said. ‘That’s great!’ I just looked at him. ‘Of course he’s going to get better,’ I said. I thought for a minute. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘What did you hear?’ Jimi turned away from me, grabbed a shirt off the floor, and hung it up. ‘Nothing, I guess,’ he said to the closet.” All told, it is a simple and powerful story, authentically told.

Highly recommended for both its quality of writing and its superb handling of difficult subject matter.

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2014


Page Count: 80

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.


Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

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