An engaging tale that offers important lessons about friendship for young readers.


A mischievous little monkey and a grumpy gorilla get into trouble and confront life-changing situations in the Amazon rain forest in Newcomer’s picture book.

Marlin the monkey and Garth the gorilla are two of the many animals that live in the Amazon rain forest. Told in seven “episodes,” the story follows the pair as they have numerous adventures. They initially clash, as “Marlin’s life was all about fun, fun, fun,” while “Garth was a very big gorilla…very strong, very mean, very ugly, and he didn't like monkeys.” Marlin lives to irritate Garth, but when a practical joke goes awry and Garth falls out of a tree and breaks his leg, Marlin must quickly grow up and help his former enemy survive by bringing him food. The experience leads them to become good friends, and as they support each other, they learn things about their families and life histories, conquer their fears, and meet new love interests. They also learn other lessons in the jungle, as when Marlin tells a group of parrots that they should apologize to a toucan for making fun of how she looks. Told in clear prose with plenty of humor and dialogue, Newcomer’s debut will be engaging for young readers. The action is dramatic—featuring long-lost triplet siblings, captured parents, and tragic deaths—but hums right along and ties into broader themes of friendship and belonging. Marlin will be a particularly relatable character for young readers who can’t seem to stay out of trouble, while quieter children may see themselves in Garth, who appreciates silence and just wants to find another gorilla to be with because his species isn’t native to South America. Colorful cartoon illustrations scattered throughout effectively reflect the action of the story and help break up long blocks of text. Despite all the drama, the ending neatly wraps up the story and provides a satisfying conclusion.

An engaging tale that offers important lessons about friendship for young readers.

Pub Date: June 1, 2015


Page Count: 41

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.


Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


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

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. 19, 2019

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