Fresh and original, this appealing account of friendship celebrates differences and community.

KABUNGO

"The unexpected is what happens three times a day at least" when your best friend is a cave girl.

Beverly’s best friend is 10-year-old Kabungo, who lives in a cave on Main Street, right next to the post office. She calls her uncivilized friend “K,” and K calls her “Belly.” In a quirky, gently humorous, and slightly mysterious first-person account, organized into episodic chapters titled with K’s distinctive mispronunciations, Belly describes some of their unusual adventures. There’s the day she follows K into the woods and finds her visiting a Dutch-speaking man she calls Grandpa; a climb up K’s “family tree”; and a treasure hunt leading to a birthday surprise at the town dump. Belly struggles to teach K the alphabet and finds her a kitten K names Bun. Together they go to a Halloween party at the home of Miss VeDore, the 90-year-old pumpkin woman. The narrator’s voice is distinctive, and her account is peppered with her observations and opinions. Though she’s describing her friend, she reveals a lot about herself. Kabungo has few English words, but she regularly demonstrates her love for Beverly with Grateful Cavegirl Squeezes. Occasional grayscale illustrations by comic artist Pavlovic make this surreal tale seem almost real. Both girls are white, but Beverly is neatly groomed while Kabungo sports a fur tunic and uncombed hair. (Final art not seen.)

Fresh and original, this appealing account of friendship celebrates differences and community. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-55498-804-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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The second installment in this spirited series is a hit.

WAYS TO GROW LOVE

From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 2

A new baby coming means Ryan has lots of opportunities to grow love.

Ryan has so much to look forward to this summer—she is going to be a big sister, and she finally gets to go to church camp! But new adventures bring challenges, too. Ryan feels like the baby is taking forever to arrive, and with Mom on bed rest, she isn’t able to participate in the family’s typical summer activities. Ryan’s Dad is still working the late shift, which means he gets home and goes to bed when she and her older brother, Ray, are waking up, so their quality daddy-daughter time is limited to one day a week. When the time for camp finally arrives, Ryan is so worried about bugs, ghosts, and sharing a cabin that she wonders if she should go at all. Watson’s heroine is smart and courageous, bringing her optimistic attitude to any challenge she faces. Hard topics like family finances and complex relationships with friends are discussed in an age-appropriate way. Watson continues to excel at crafting a sense of place; she transports readers to Portland, Oregon, with an attention to detail that can only come from someone who has loved that city. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and occasional illustrations by Mata spotlight their joy and make this book shine.

The second installment in this spirited series is a hit. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0058-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet!

WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE

From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 1

Ryan Hart is navigating the fourth grade and all its challenges with determination.

Her mom named her Ryan because it means “king,” and she wanted Ryan to feel powerful every time she heard her name; Ryan knows it means she is a leader. So when changes occur or disaster strikes, budding chef Ryan does her best to find the positive and “make sunshine.” When her dad is laid off from the post office, the family must make adjustments that include moving into a smaller house, selling their car, and changing how they shop for groceries. But Ryan gets to stay at Vernon Elementary, and her mom still finds a way to get her the ingredients she needs to practice new recipes. Her older brother, Ray, can be bossy, but he finds little ways to support her, especially when she is down—as does the whole family. Each episodic chapter confronts Ryan with a situation; intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching, they should be familiar and accessible to readers, as when Ryan fumbles her Easter speech despite careful practice. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and Watson continues to bring visibility to both Portland, Oregon, generally and its Black community specifically, making another wonderful contribution that allows Black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love.

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0056-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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