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DINNER AT THE BRAKE FAST

An uplifting caper for readers who don’t mind some emotional shortcuts.

Twelve-year-old Tacoma spends her evenings and weekends working at her parents’ Washington state truck stop, the Brake Fast.

Socially isolated due to her work schedule and some bullies at school, Tacoma becomes cautiously excited when a musician’s tour bus breaks down at the truck stop, stranding the driver’s 13-year-old son, Denver, along with the band. The two kids team up on a quest to retrieve a stolen Brake Fast memento from an adult bully named Crocodile Kyle and then buy groceries for Tacoma’s first-ever dinner menu at the Brake Fast Truck Stop, which serves only breakfast foods all day long. What begins as hijinks turns to melodrama as the pair absorb a third member—Tacoma’s mean classmate and Crocodile Kyle’s nephew, Hudgie—and each begins to reveal their personal challenges and traumas over the course of the day. The author treats issues such as anxiety, parental depression, and verbal abuse with sensitivity, though the kids divulge their vulnerabilities with implausible speed, blunting the power of the emotional arc. The rural Washington setting provides a wealth of quirky characters and locales, and the one-day time frame lends a satisfying immediacy to the kids’ adventures. It also requires a time warp, allowing three kids to cook a multicourse dinner for 18 people in just a couple of hours and leaving time for a public showdown with Crocodile Kyle. Physical descriptions are minimal; most characters are apparently white.

An uplifting caper for readers who don’t mind some emotional shortcuts. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 25, 2024

ISBN: 9780063324909

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

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CHARLOTTE'S WEB

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often...

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A successful juvenile by the beloved New Yorker writer portrays a farm episode with an imaginative twist that makes a poignant, humorous story of a pig, a spider and a little girl.

Young Fern Arable pleads for the life of runt piglet Wilbur and gets her father to sell him to a neighbor, Mr. Zuckerman. Daily, Fern visits the Zuckermans to sit and muse with Wilbur and with the clever pen spider Charlotte, who befriends him when he is lonely and downcast. At the news of Wilbur's forthcoming slaughter, campaigning Charlotte, to the astonishment of people for miles around, spins words in her web. "Some Pig" comes first. Then "Terrific"—then "Radiant". The last word, when Wilbur is about to win a show prize and Charlotte is about to die from building her egg sac, is "Humble". And as the wonderful Charlotte does die, the sadness is tempered by the promise of more spiders next spring.

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often informative as amusing, and the whole tenor of appealing wit and pathos will make fine entertainment for reading aloud, too.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1952

ISBN: 978-0-06-026385-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1952

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