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From the EllRay Jakes series

The EllRay Jakes stories are just right for his real-life peers; short enough to be read by kids getting comfortable with...

The third installment in this series about third-grader with a penchant for "messing up" (EllRay Jakes Is Not a Chicken, 2011, etc.) revisits an unfortunately evergreen theme from the first book: bullying.

This time, EllRay's misguided, although goodhearted, decision to allow his 4-year-old sister, Alfie, to help take care of the class fish that he's housing over spring break results in Zip's death, and troubles cascade from there. Distracted, EllRay forgets to bring in Treasure Island, the class read-aloud he's borrowed, and his classmates begin to get angry. To make matters worse, mean girl Cynthia Harbison continually tries to pin her transgressions (cheating at a playground game; a classroom shoving match) on EllRay, since "You're already the kid in our class who messes up." With some subtle support from Ms. Sanchez and the principal, EllRay manages to deliver the message to Cynthia that he won't be a patsy. As in previous series entries, EllRay is likable and his problems believable; again, the ending is a bit pat but satisfying nonetheless. Drama about Alfie's friendship woes in preschool parallels the main story but is less successful; Alfie's voice is unrealistically mature for a 4-year-old.

The EllRay Jakes stories are just right for his real-life peers; short enough to be read by kids getting comfortable with chapter booksand also enjoyable and authentic. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-06306-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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From the Elephant & Piggie series

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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A spellbinding tale that will never brown or fade with time.

Soup is always the correct solution.

Evergreen, a young squirrel who lives high in a tree in Buckthorn Forest, is afraid of most things, but top of the list is thunderstorms. When her mother, who makes magical soup, asks her to take an acorn full of soup to Granny Oak, who is ill with the flu, Evergreen is afraid that she won’t be brave enough to do it. But she knows she must—and that she must be careful not to spill a drop, as “Granny Oak will need every bit of it to get better.” Setting off, the scared squirrel encounters a menagerie of adventures and forest creatures in her journey. It’s a wild, imaginative read and one that twists and turns like a forest path, with unexpected surprises along the way. Cordell is a masterful storyteller, and readers will love following Evergreen’s journey as she grows into a more confident squirrel. The artwork is the real star of the show, however; there’s a hint of Sendak in the characters’ humorous expressions and in the timeless pen-and-watercolor backgrounds that cry out to be examined in detail. Educators and caregivers will love reading this story aloud in installments, and readers will adore seeing what Evergreen encounters in her travels. A hint of future stories will tantalize readers, who will close the book eager for a new volume to devour.

A spellbinding tale that will never brown or fade with time. (Early chapter book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-31717-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

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