A delightfully fun summer vacation book for young readers.

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IT ALL STARTED WITH A BICYCLE

In this fast-moving middle-grade novel, a tomboy spends her summer working for a witchy woman, searching for treasure in an old house and trying to track down her missing bicycle, all while making new friends and learning valuable lessons.

Eleven-year-old Pam lives in the seaside town of Cape May, New Jersey, in her parents’ restored Victorian inn. Never one to sit still or stay indoors, she prefers bikes and the beach to books, and she’s less than enthusiastic about the company of other girls. As the summer begins, Pam is excited to start working at a boardwalk chocolate shop and to use her earnings to replace her stolen green bicycle. Unfortunately, the nasty old woman who works in the shop won’t stop berating Pam for everything she does, making her miserable; seeing her stolen bike being boldly ridden around town by a strange girl doesn’t help matters. Pam ends up finding fun in the most unlikely of places: the sprawling mansion next door, where a sweet but slightly batty old lady insists her mother once hid treasure. However, the house was long ago split in two and moved; no one knows where the other half is, let alone which half might contain the treasure or what the treasure could be. Pam teams up with friendly new girl Maddy and Maddy’s uptight best friend, Zara, to unravel the mystery; she rides a four-person bicycle, explores a garage’s junkyard and even reads a book or two. The sunny Cape May setting—a perfect backdrop for this quick, summery read—will have readers counting the days until they too can escape to the beach. In Pam, debut author McCauley has created a bright young heroine who’s energetic, impulsive and occasionally annoying—in other words, typical and relatable for young readers. Pam naturally makes mistakes, but she learns from them, too; important lessons, such as why you shouldn’t rush to judge someone, help make this story more substantial than most adventures.

A delightfully fun summer vacation book for young readers.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4327-7412-7

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Outskirts Press Inc.

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books.

BUSY BETTY

Actor and author Witherspoon makes her picture-book debut.

Betty, a light-skinned, bespectacled child with blond pigtails, was born busy. Constantly in motion, Betty builds big block towers, cartwheels around the house (underfoot, of course), and plays with the family’s “fantabulous” dog, Frank, who is stinky and dirty. That leads to a big, busy, bright idea that, predictably, caroms toward calamity yet drags along enough hilarity to be entertaining. With a little help from best friend Mae (light-skinned with dark hair), the catastrophe turns into a lucrative dog-washing business. Busy Betty is once again ready to rush off to the next big thing. Yan uses vivid, pastel colors for a spread of a group of diverse kids bringing their dogs to be washed, helping out, and having fun, while the grown-ups are muted and relegated to the background. Extreme angles in several of the illustrations effectively convey a sense of perpetual motion and heighten the story’s tension, drawing readers in. An especially effective, glitter-strewn spread portrays Frank looming large and seemingly running off the page while Betty looks on, stricken at the ensuing mess. Though it’s a familiar and easily resolved story, Witherspoon’s rollicking text never holds back, replete with amusing phrases such as “sweet cinnamon biscuits,” “bouncing biscuits,” and “busted biscuits.” As Betty says, “Being busy is a great way to be.” Young readers are sure to agree. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-46588-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves

MAYBE

A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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