BRAVO, MAX!

Continuing the exchange of notes and postcards begun in Dear Max (2006), renowned children’s author D.J. Lucas and her greatest fan, young Max, provide mutual support in the course of another busy year. For her, it’s one of writing and promotional traveling and for him, one of struggling with a trollish babysitter and a firming relationship between his widowed mother and a new friend. It’s an exciting time for Lucas, whose My Teacher’s a Nutcase is being made into a film (starring “Tom Trews” and “Jennifer Aniseed”) even as she’s trying her hand at creating a higher-toned novel. Meanwhile, Max deals with his unhappiness partly by concealing it from his mother, and partly by composing a play in which his sitter is an ogre and Mom’s bearded, deceptively friendly caller is dubbed Fungus Face. Including playwriting tips and brief passages of dialogue along with savvy advice and loyal expressions of encouragement, the epistolary back-and-forth, liberally strewn with Max’s line drawings, creates two equally engaging storylines—and may get the creative juices flowing in some young readers, too. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: March 27, 2007

ISBN: 1-4169-0393-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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THE LEMONADE WAR

From the Lemonade War series , Vol. 1

Told from the point of view of two warring siblings, this could have been an engaging first chapter book. Unfortunately, the length makes it less likely to appeal to the intended audience. Jessie and Evan are usually good friends as well as sister and brother. But the news that bright Jessie will be skipping a grade to join Evan’s fourth-grade class creates tension. Evan believes himself to be less than clever; Jessie’s emotional maturity doesn’t quite measure up to her intelligence. Rivalry and misunderstandings grow as the two compete to earn the most money in the waning days of summer. The plot rolls along smoothly and readers will be able to both follow the action and feel superior to both main characters as their motivations and misconceptions are clearly displayed. Indeed, a bit more subtlety in characterization might have strengthened the book’s appeal. The final resolution is not entirely believable, but the emphasis on cooperation and understanding is clear. Earnest and potentially successful, but just misses the mark. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 23, 2007

ISBN: 0-618-75043-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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