More likely to create anxiety than to cultivate empathy or sympathy.

READ REVIEW

WHEN I AM HAPPIEST

From the My Happy Life series , Vol. 3

Forty-six pages into Dani’s happy, second-to-last day at school, her teacher takes her out to the hallway, newly informed that “Your father has been run over….He was biking to work.”

As with the previous two books about Dani, My Happy Life (2013) and My Heart Is Laughing (2014), this book is unerringly honest about the experiences and feelings of both children and adults. However, its shocking, melodramatic plot pushes the envelope. Readers learn that Dani is motherless, but otherwise all is initially light humor, as in classmates’ insertion of thumbtacks into the soles of their shoes for tap dancing. Dani is preparing finishing touches on her masterpiece, a book about happiness, when the bad news comes. The emotions that accompany a child in shock are realistic, and Dani’s grandparents and her beloved cousin, Sven, play a role in helping her cope. Although tragedies occur daily in real life, it’s asking a lot of chapter-book readers to master emotions along with decoding skills by reading such sentences as, “And so it is that Dani, on the second-to-last day of school, goes to the hospital where her father lies sleeping so deeply that he might never wake up again.” What is perhaps intended as comic relief feels ghoulish, as in a classmate’s note: “I hope your father gets better so you don’t have to go to an orphanage!” The black-and-white illustrations are sweetly appealing.

More likely to create anxiety than to cultivate empathy or sympathy. (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-9272-7190-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Gecko Press

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Accessible, reassuring and hopeful.

THE INVISIBLE BOY

This endearing picture book about a timid boy who longs to belong has an agenda but delivers its message with great sensitivity.

Brian wants to join in but is overlooked, even ostracized, by his classmates. Readers first see him alone on the front endpapers, drawing in chalk on the ground. The school scenarios are uncomfortably familiar: High-maintenance children get the teacher’s attention; team captains choose kickball players by popularity and athletic ability; chatter about birthday parties indicates they are not inclusive events. Tender illustrations rendered in glowing hues capture Brian’s isolation deftly; compared to the others and his surroundings, he appears in black and white. What saves Brian is his creativity. As he draws, Brian imagines amazing stories, including a poignant one about a superhero with the power to make friends. When a new boy takes some ribbing, it is Brian who leaves an illustrated note to make him feel better. The boy does not forget this gesture. It only takes one person noticing Brian for the others to see his talents have value; that he has something to contribute. Brian’s colors pop. In the closing endpapers, Brian’s classmates are spread around him on the ground, “wearing” his chalk-drawn wings and capes. Use this to start a discussion: The author includes suggested questions and recommended reading lists for adults and children.

Accessible, reassuring and hopeful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-582-46450-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character

PEDRO, FIRST-GRADE HERO

From the Pedro series , Vol. 1

The creators of the Katie Woo series turn their focus to a peripheral character, first-grader Pedro—Katie’s friend and schoolmate.

Four short chapters—“Pedro Goes Buggy,” “Pedro’s Big Goal,” “Pedro’s Mystery Club,” and “Pedro For President”—highlight a Latino main character surrounded by a superbly diverse cast. At times unsure of himself, Pedro is extremely likable, for he wants to do his best and is a fair friend. He consistently comes out on top, even when his younger brother releases all the bugs he’s captured for a class assignment or when self-assured bully Roddy tries to unite opposition to Pedro’s female opponent (Katie Woo) in the race for first-grade class president. Using a third-person, past-tense narrative voice, Manushkin expands her repertoire by adding a hero comparable to EllRay Jakes. What is refreshing about the book is that for the most part, aside from Roddy’s gender-based bullying, the book overcomes boy-girl stereotypes: girls and boys play soccer, boys and girls run for president, girls and boys hunt for bugs, all setting a progressive standard for chapter books. With mixed-media illustrations featuring colorful bugs, soccer action, a mystery hunt, and a presidential campaign, Lyon’s attention to detail in color and facial expressions complements the story nicely.

This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character . (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5158-0112-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Picture Window Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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