White bread. Consider Jane O’Connor’s Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth (2012) instead.


From the Spotlight Club Mysteries series

After a long hiatus, the Spotlight Club Mysteries return with a new posthumous entry and a paperback reprint of another.

Blond siblings Cindy and Jay, of indeterminate age, and their neighbor Dexter, distinct mainly because he wears glasses, solve mysteries together in a fictional town so mild it could be a Beverly Cleary setting. However, whereas the physical safety of Klickitat Street exists to highlight emotional and developmental depth, Parry and Pierce’s town—Kenoska—houses whodunits (or what-is-its) that characters easily glide through, enthusiastic but free from disputes or sweat. In this world, adult strangers are no actual threat, and a child can pick up prescription medication. (In contrast, kid-made gravestone rubbings sell for $15 apiece. Really?) The kids bike around town between home and the cemetery, earning money to save a museum and forging connections among a wrought-iron bench, a missing locket, feuding adult sisters and a long-dead artist. Answers are too thin, results too perfect. A second title, publishing simultaneously, Mystery of the Bewitched Bookmobile, offers a bit more meat and interest—climbing into a bookmobile in the dark; decoding a painted sign—but feels even more dated due to old-fashioned telephone numbers and a librarian (Cindy’s role model) who wants nothing more than to be asked on a date.

White bread. Consider Jane O’Connor’s Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth (2012) instead. (Mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8075-7695-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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


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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A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.


From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A long-running series reaches its closing chapters.

Having, as Kline notes in her warm valedictory acknowledgements, taken 30 years to get through second and third grade, Harry Spooger is overdue to move on—but not just into fourth grade, it turns out, as his family is moving to another town as soon as the school year ends. The news leaves his best friend, narrator “Dougo,” devastated…particularly as Harry doesn’t seem all that fussed about it. With series fans in mind, the author takes Harry through a sort of last-day-of-school farewell tour. From his desk he pulls a burned hot dog and other items that featured in past episodes, says goodbye to Song Lee and other classmates, and even (for the first time ever) leads Doug and readers into his house and memento-strewn room for further reminiscing. Of course, Harry isn’t as blasé about the move as he pretends, and eyes aren’t exactly dry when he departs. But hardly is he out of sight before Doug is meeting Mohammad, a new neighbor from Syria who (along with further diversifying a cast that began as mostly white but has become increasingly multiethnic over the years) will also be starting fourth grade at summer’s end, and planning a written account of his “horrible” buddy’s exploits. Finished illustrations not seen.

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47963-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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