A Pollyanna for the 21st century

READ REVIEW

SARAI AND THE MEANING OF AWESOME

From the Sarai series , Vol. 1

Young debut author Gonzalez joins veteran co-author Brown (Lola Levine and the Halloween Scream, 2017) to kick off a semiautobiographical chapter-book series based on her life growing up with a large and loving immigrant family in New Jersey.

Fourth-grader Sarai is the oldest of three girls in a tightknit Latinx family (her mom was born in Peru, and her dad was born in Costa Rica). She is the epitome of positive thinking, with ambition to spare. When her beloved grandfather learns that the owner of the house he has been renting, and which he shares with his extended family, has decided to sell, Sarai is immediately concerned. Where will her abuelos, tíos, and primos live? What if they are no longer close by? Sarai’s optimism does not let her stay down for long, and she immediately hatches a plan to use her fledgling cupcake business to raise the money needed to buy the house. Little sisters making a mess of the kitchen cause some trouble, but basic economics presents insurmountable odds—still, the ending is undoubtedly happy all the same. Sarai’s neighborliness and strong family values may be aspirational for many in our contemporary society, but her contagious joy might just set readers on the road to remedy that. Though none of her plans ultimately succeed, she remains irrepressibly hopeful throughout; it’s an admirable hope that fuels hard work and ingenuity. Almeda’s illustrations depict Sarai and her family with brown skin and black hair.

A Pollyanna for the 21st century . (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-23668-2

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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Italics and exclamation points may be overused, but this new humorous series is full of gently amusing magical surprises.

THE SUPER-SPOOKY FRIGHT NIGHT!

From the Hubble Bubble series , Vol. 1

Shades of Bewitched, the old TV show featuring a witch married to a regular guy.

This new chapter-book series stars Pandora, a white girl with two grandmas—the good witch, Granny Crow, in a patterned minidress, whose magical powers enliven any party or school outing, and Granny Podmore, in her cardigan and plaid skirt, a kind but stereotypical grandmother who cleans and cooks. Pandora’s friends include Nellie, a black girl, and Nellie’s mom is also depicted as black in the exuberant line drawings with gray washes. The three chapterlong adventures are rather tame, meant for readers who want fun rather than fright. In “The Super-Spooky Fright Night!” (all titles have exclamation points), the two grandmothers host a Halloween party. Granny Crow creates “bat-shaped cookies that hung around the bowls, and a custard cat (that actually meowed!).” Granny Podmore makes “the neatest swans” from napkins. Granny Crow conjures up musical broomsticks when Granny Podmore wants to introduce musical chairs. The evening ends happily when Granny Podmore uses Ollie, her vacuum cleaner, to suck up little pumpkins from Granny Crow’s pumpkin pop gone wild. Only Granny Crow appears in the other stories, making teddy bears come alive to give a “teddy bears’ picnic!” and causing a nasty teacher to accidentally cast a spell that turns a school swimming lesson into utter chaos.

Italics and exclamation points may be overused, but this new humorous series is full of gently amusing magical surprises. (Fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8653-6

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Nosy Crow/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A deceptively simple, warmhearted tale, particularly apt for chapter-book readers with similar experiences or an interest in...

TWO FOR JOY

When feisty great-aunt Britannia falls and hurts herself for the fourth time in two years, 8-year-old Jenna and her mom, a nurse, invite “Tannie” to come and live with them.

But the strong-willed, widowed Tannie, an avid birder who once could fly an airplane and ride a motorcycle, isn’t quite ready to give up her Mississippi farm and move in with her beloved relatives in Virginia. Eventually Tannie relents. Although Jenna appreciates having her great-aunt’s inspiring spirit nearby, soon Tannie’s needs cut into the maternal attentiveness Jenna has come to expect. Learning to accept change and to ask for help become challenges for all of the characters, as transitioning into an intergenerational threesome is presented as an ongoing process. Amateau’s experiences with caregiving and her work in the world of aging and disability services inform this mildly generic, timeless story. Refreshing aspects include an adventurous older female character striving to remain vital and the mutually respectful relationship between Jenna and her mother, who is the primary parent after divorce.

A deceptively simple, warmhearted tale, particularly apt for chapter-book readers with similar experiences or an interest in multigenerational stories. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3010-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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