From the Alice McKinley series , Vol. 1

Alice is back again, but this time she’s younger. In the first of three planned prequels to the extensive series about Alice McKinley, eight-year-old Alice moves to Tacoma Park, Maryland, from Chicago. Although written for a younger audience, this first-person narrative offers the same elements as those for older readers, dealing with friendship, family, and the embarrassments of childhood, all with good humor. Also as usual, Naylor (Simply Alice, p. 496, etc.) adds a tragedy—in this case, a relative’s death—but deals with its emotional impact only superficially, striking a false note in her otherwise perceptive portrayal of well-loved child. While this is an enjoyable story, and Alice and her family are as likable as ever, readers who love the series will miss the presence of Alice’s friends, Elizabeth, Pamela, and Patrick, who figure heavily in the other plots. Similarly, those who start with this prequel will encounter a major change in the cast of characters when Alice moves again in The Agony of Alice, originally the first book. Starting with Alice doesn’t fill in any important gaps in the backstory and, in fact, creates a few discrepancies—Alice has a good time with her cousin Carol in this prequel, but in The Agony of Alice, she doesn’t remember who Carol is. Nevertheless, this cheerful addition will find a ready audience among the younger siblings of Alice fans as well as the devoted older fans themselves, to whom Alice feels like a friend. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-689-84395-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002


From the Lemonade War series , Vol. 1

Told from the point of view of two warring siblings, this could have been an engaging first chapter book. Unfortunately, the length makes it less likely to appeal to the intended audience. Jessie and Evan are usually good friends as well as sister and brother. But the news that bright Jessie will be skipping a grade to join Evan’s fourth-grade class creates tension. Evan believes himself to be less than clever; Jessie’s emotional maturity doesn’t quite measure up to her intelligence. Rivalry and misunderstandings grow as the two compete to earn the most money in the waning days of summer. The plot rolls along smoothly and readers will be able to both follow the action and feel superior to both main characters as their motivations and misconceptions are clearly displayed. Indeed, a bit more subtlety in characterization might have strengthened the book’s appeal. The final resolution is not entirely believable, but the emphasis on cooperation and understanding is clear. Earnest and potentially successful, but just misses the mark. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 23, 2007

ISBN: 0-618-75043-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007



From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 1

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet!

Ryan Hart is navigating the fourth grade and all its challenges with determination.

Her mom named her Ryan because it means “king,” and she wanted Ryan to feel powerful every time she heard her name; Ryan knows it means she is a leader. So when changes occur or disaster strikes, budding chef Ryan does her best to find the positive and “make sunshine.” When her dad is laid off from the post office, the family must make adjustments that include moving into a smaller house, selling their car, and changing how they shop for groceries. But Ryan gets to stay at Vernon Elementary, and her mom still finds a way to get her the ingredients she needs to practice new recipes. Her older brother, Ray, can be bossy, but he finds little ways to support her, especially when she is down—as does the whole family. Each episodic chapter confronts Ryan with a situation; intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching, they should be familiar and accessible to readers, as when Ryan fumbles her Easter speech despite careful practice. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and Watson continues to bring visibility to both Portland, Oregon, generally and its Black community specifically, making another wonderful contribution that allows Black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love.

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0056-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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