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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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2008

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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

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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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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