PENINA LEVINE IS A POTATO PANCAKE

As the fall semester of her sixth grade year winds down, Penina’s woes overshadow any Hanukkah celebration. Her beloved teacher, Mrs. Brown, is unexpectedly resigning, and her best friend, Zozo, is going on vacation, leaving Penina with nothing to do except dodge Mimsy, her annoyingly cute, pesky little sister. Behind in creating presents for her family, Penina wishes the eight nights of candle lighting would reflect more on the meaning of the holiday’s remembrance of the Maccabees’ struggle than gift-giving, at least until she is ready. And when Grandma tries to support Penina’s cantankerous and moody behavior by claiming to her exasperated mother that Penina is “Grandma’s revenge,” the remark sparks a hurtful misunderstanding—fortunately followed by a quick reconciliation with hugs, kisses and potato pancakes. As she struggles to understand her immediate world, Penina draws strength from her close friendship and family support. In this prequel to 2007’s Penina Levine Is a Hard-Boiled Egg, O’Connell’s feisty, endearing tween character allows readers a glimpse into a typical Jewish-American modern household. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59643-213-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2008

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STANLEY, FLAT AGAIN!

Flattened once more, this time not by a falling bulletin board but a double blow to his elusive “Osteal Balance Point”—or so says family GP Dr. Dan—Stanley Lambchop gets two more chances to play the hero before popping back into shape. First he becomes a human spinnaker in a sailboat race, then he worms his way through the wreckage of a collapsed building to rescue ever-rude classmate Emma Weeks. Alluding to previous episodes, Stanley complains, “Why me? Why am I always getting flat, or invisible, or something?” Mr. Lambchop replies, “But things often happen without there seeming to be a reason, and then something else happens, and suddenly the first thing seems to have had a purpose after all.” Perhaps—even if that purpose is just to tread water, as Brown does here. Still, with its cartoon illustrations, well-leaded text and general goofiness, this retread is as likely to draw transitional readers as the perennial favorite Flat Stanley (1964) and its sequels. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-009551-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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Readers will enjoy this sequel from a plot perspective and will learn how to play-act a trial, though they may not engage...

THE LEMONADE CRIME

From the Lemonade War series , Vol. 2

This sequel to The Lemonade War (2007), picking up just a few days later, focuses on how the fourth graders take justice into their own hands after learning that the main suspect in the case of the missing lemonade-stand money now owns the latest in game-box technology.

Siblings Evan and Jessie (who skipped third grade because of her precocity) are sure Scott Spencer stole the $208 from Evan’s shorts and want revenge, especially as Scott’s new toy makes him the most popular kid in class, despite his personal shortcomings. Jessie’s solution is to orchestrate a full-blown trial by jury after school, while Evan prefers to challenge Scott in basketball. Neither channel proves satisfactory for the two protagonists (whose rational and emotional reactions are followed throughout the third-person narrative), though, ultimately, the matter is resolved. Set during the week of Yom Kippur, the story raises beginning questions of fairness, integrity, sin and atonement. Like John Grisham's Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer (2010), much of the book is taken up with introducing courtroom proceedings for a fourth-grade level of understanding. Chapter headings provide definitions  (“due diligence,” “circumstantial evidence,” etc.) and explanation cards/documents drawn by Jessie are interspersed.

Readers will enjoy this sequel from a plot perspective and will learn how to play-act a trial, though they may not engage with the characters enough to care about how the justice actually pans out. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-27967-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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