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BLACKBERRY JUICE

A summertime visit to the countryside with people who are fun to share time with. What could be better? (Fiction. 6-10)

Newly relocated to a run-down seaside farm, brothers (and best friends) Cyrus and Rudy face big changes.

Although Cyrus, 9, and Rudy, 8, have some serious reservations about leaving the city, the move they tried hard to prevent in Not for Sale (2015), there are ample new and interesting aspects of rural life to distract them. Most important of these are their colorful new neighbors, Rachel (who is clothed entirely in a different primary color each day) and her grandparents, and a depressed donkey, Rumpley, that unexpectedly came with the house. For Rudy, some of the fun comes in the form of an old thesaurus that gives him the opportunity to spout amusing synonyms. Cyrus takes the donkey on as his personal project. Rumpley hasn’t enjoyed life since his old master died two years ago, but Cyrus is determined to make up for that. The donkey’s loyal payback eventually plays a critical role in an exciting (if a bit improbable) climax when Cyrus accidentally gets stranded on a rock during a rising tide. Flook’s cartoon illustrations enhance the simple, amusing text that is peopled with warm, engaging characters (all of them apparently white) and a gently nuanced animal relationship. Short chapters and a limited vocabulary make this a fine choice for emerging readers.

A summertime visit to the countryside with people who are fun to share time with. What could be better? (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1228-4

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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HORRIBLE HARRY SAYS GOODBYE

From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

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

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. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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BEATRICE ZINKER, UPSIDE DOWN THINKER

From the Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker series , Vol. 1

A kind child in a book for middle-grade readers? There’s no downside to that.

Beatrice Zinker is a kinder, gentler Judy Moody.

Beatrice doesn’t want to be fit in a box. Her first word was “WOW,” not “Mom.” She does her best thinking upside down and prefers to dress like a ninja. Like Judy Moody, she has patient parents and a somewhat annoying younger brother. (She also has a perfectly ordinary older sister.) Beatrice spends all summer planning a top-secret spy operation complete with secret codes and a secret language (pig Latin). But on the first day of third grade, her best friend, Lenny (short for Eleanor), shows up in a dress, with a new friend who wants to play veterinarian at recess. Beatrice, essentially a kind if somewhat quirky kid, struggles to see the upside of the situation and ends up with two friends instead of one. Line drawings on almost every spread add to the humor and make the book accessible to readers who might otherwise balk at its 160 pages. Thankfully, the rhymes in the text do not continue past the first chapter. Children will enjoy the frequent puns and Beatrice’s preference for climbing trees and hanging upside down. The story drifts dangerously close to pedantry when Beatrice asks for advice from a grandmotherly neighbor but is saved by likable characters and upside-down cake. Beatrice seems to be white; Lenny’s surname, Santos, suggests that she may be Latina; their school is a diverse one.

A kind child in a book for middle-grade readers? There’s no downside to that. (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-6738-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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