From the Polly & Buster series , Vol. 1

“Polly Proggett is terrible at spells, which is rather unfortunate when you’re a witch.”

Polly’s magical ineptitude, a source of considerable frustration, has left her without a single witch or warlock to call friend. Luckily, she has Buster, “who is kind and lovely and likes Polly no matter what.” Polly and Buster have been thick as thieves since childhood, secretly meeting every day after school in their favorite backyard tree—but there’s a problem. Buster’s a member of the monster underclass, and monsters and witches do not mix. A field trip to an art museum draws Polly closer to a popular former enemy, but everything goes awry when she runs into Buster, whom she snubs harshly. Shrinking, quite literally, under the weight of her rejection, Buster becomes the target of abuse from his classmates. A repentant Polly rushes to defend her friend, accidentally casting an extraordinarily powerful Protector spell. A twisting of events transforms Polly into a local hero, but at what cost to her cherished friendship? Rippin cultivates an emotive third-person narrative with stark simplicity. Stylistic typographical gimmicks pepper the text throughout but never detract from the flow of the story. By contrast, the pacing feels rushed at times, sometimes jarringly so, but a lively marriage of magic and mayhem makes for an easy read even as tensions between witches and monsters rise. Humanoid characters default to white. Sequel The Mystery of the Magic Stones publishes simultaneously.

Quite bewitching. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61067-926-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Kane Miller

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.


From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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Readers will be waiting to see how Charlie faces his next challenge in a series that marks a lovely change of pace from the...


From the Charlie Bumpers series , Vol. 1

Charlie Bumpers is doomed. The one teacher he never wanted in the whole school turns out to be his fourth-grade teacher.

Charlie recalls third grade, when he accidentally hit the scariest teacher in the whole school with his sneaker. “I know all about you, Charlie Bumpers,” she says menacingly on the first day of fourth grade. Now, in addition to all the hardships of starting school, he has gotten off on the wrong foot with her. Charlie’s dry and dramatic narrative voice clearly reveals the inner life of a 9-year-old—the glass is always half empty, especially in light of a series of well-intentioned events gone awry. It’s quite a litany: “Hitting Mrs. Burke in the head with the sneaker. The messy desk. The swinging on the door. The toilet paper. And now this—the shoe on the roof.” Harley has teamed once again with illustrator Gustavson (Lost and Found, 2012) to create a real-life world in which a likable kid must face the everyday terrors of childhood: enormous bullies, looming teachers and thick gym coaches with huge pointing fingers. Into this series opener, Harley magically weaves the simple lesson that people, even teachers, can surprise you.

Readers will be waiting to see how Charlie faces his next challenge in a series that marks a lovely change of pace from the sarcasm of Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-56145-732-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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