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

ELLRAY JAKES WALKS THE PLANK

From the EllRay Jakes series

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. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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Everything that readers have come to love about the Elephant & Piggie books is present—masterful pacing, easy-to-follow,...

MY NEW FRIEND IS SO FUN!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Can Gerald and Piggie’s friendship withstand the friendly overtures of Brian Bat?

When Snake informs Gerald that Piggie is playing with Brian Bat, he is at first complacent. Brian is “nice,” he observes; Snake concurs—after all, he says, “Brian is my Best Friend!” Their mutual reflection that Piggie and Brian “must be having a super-duper fun time!” turns, however, to paranoia when they realize that if their best pals “are having that much fun together, then… / …maybe they do not need us” (that last is printed in teeny-tiny, utterly demoralized type). Gerald and Snake dash/slither to put an end to the fun. Their fears are confirmed when the two new buddies tell them they have “been playing BEST FRIEND GAMES!”—which, it turns out, means making drawings of their respective best friends, Gerald and Snake. Awww. While the buildup to the friends’ confrontation is characteristically funny, there’s a certain feeling of anticlimax to the story’s resolution. How many young children, when playing with a new friend, are likely to spend their time thinking of the friends that they are not playing with? This is unfortunate, as the emotions that Gerald and Snake experience are realistic and profound, deserving of more than a platitudinous, unrealistic response.

Everything that readers have come to love about the Elephant & Piggie books is present—masterful pacing, easy-to-follow, color-coded speech bubbles, hilarious body language—except an emotionally satisfying ending. (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7958-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

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. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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