From the Mango & Bambang series

This debut’s imaginative premise leads to intermittent flashes of wit and quirky humor, but promising material is left...

A lonely girl befriends the terrified tapir she finds stranded in a big, busy city.

Mango Allsorts can leap from the high diving board, do karate kicks, and apply the Sicilian defense in chess (mastering the clarinet remains a work in progress). The pale-skinned, black-haired girl cooks buttered noodles for her father when he’s had an especially trying day. Returning home from her karate lesson one day, she finds traffic at a standstill because a curled-up tapir is lying in the crosswalk. Mango scolds the clueless onlookers, then invites him home with her for banana pancakes. His name is Bambang, and fleeing a tiger has led him far from home. Friendship blossoms: they jump from a high dive; she loses and finds him more than once; they encounter an unscrupulous Collector of the Unusual. The droll and lively opening raises expectations that remain largely unfulfilled. Lessons are learned as Mango and Bambang trade parent and child roles. The story shifts between their points of view, with occasional interruptions from the intrusive narrator, who asks readers irrelevant, uninteresting questions (“What is your nearest public pool like?”), deflating the effervescent fantasy with ho-hum realism and plodding didacticism. Yet readers will learn more about tapirs from the ample, expressive illustrations than the text. Portraying the pair as a charming duo, the art lightens the tone and provides consistency lacking elsewhere.

This debut’s imaginative premise leads to intermittent flashes of wit and quirky humor, but promising material is left unexplored. (Fantasy. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8226-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016


From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.

A long-running series reaches its closing chapters.

Having, as Kline notes in her warm valedictory acknowledgements, taken 30 years to get through second and third grade, Harry Spooger is overdue to move on—but not just into fourth grade, it turns out, as his family is moving to another town as soon as the school year ends. The news leaves his best friend, narrator “Dougo,” devastated…particularly as Harry doesn’t seem all that fussed about it. With series fans in mind, the author takes Harry through a sort of last-day-of-school farewell tour. From his desk he pulls a burned hot dog and other items that featured in past episodes, says goodbye to Song Lee and other classmates, and even (for the first time ever) leads Doug and readers into his house and memento-strewn room for further reminiscing. Of course, Harry isn’t as blasé about the move as he pretends, and eyes aren’t exactly dry when he departs. But hardly is he out of sight before Doug is meeting Mohammad, a new neighbor from Syria who (along with further diversifying a cast that began as mostly white but has become increasingly multiethnic over the years) will also be starting fourth grade at summer’s end, and planning a written account of his “horrible” buddy’s exploits. Finished illustrations not seen.

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47963-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018


From the Bea Garcia series , Vol. 4

A funny and timely primer for budding activists.

Problems are afoot at Emily Dickinson Elementary School, and it’s up to Bea Garcia to gather the troops and fight.

Bea Garcia and her best friend, Judith Einstein, sit every day under the 250-year-old oak tree in their schoolyard and imagine a face in its trunk. They name it “Emily” after their favorite American poet. Bea loves to draw both real and imagined pictures of their favorite place—the squirrels in the tree, the branches that reach for the sky, the view from the canopy even though she’s never climbed that high. Until the day a problem boy does climb that high, pelting the kids with acorns and then getting stuck. Bert causes such a scene that the school board declares Emily a nuisance and decides to chop it down. Bea and Einstein rally their friends with environmental facts, poetry, and artwork to try to convince the adults in their lives to change their minds. Bea must enlist Bert if she wants her plan to succeed. Can she use her imagination and Bert’s love of monsters to get him in line? In Bea’s fourth outing, Zemke gently encourages her protagonist to grow from an artist into an activist. Her energy and passion spill from both her narration and her frequent cartoons, which humorously extend the text. Spanish-speaking Bea’s Latinx, Einstein and Bert present white, and their classmates are diverse.

A funny and timely primer for budding activists. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 6-9)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2941-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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