A Pollyanna for the 21st century


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


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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Welcome back, Annie and Simon


From the Annie and Simon series

A glimpse at sibling love in a book for newly independent readers, the third Annie and Simon book.

It’s rare to see teenagers depicted in books for young readers, but O’Neill’s series fills this void with its depiction of little sister Annie and her “big, big brother,” Simon, both of whom are white. The three slice-of-life stories that make up the book are focused on their interactions, with Simon acting as both a caregiver and companion. Their dynamic isn’t totally smooth, which keeps it feeling realistic and not nearly as sweet as the chocolate chips that Annie sneaks into the titular banana muffins they bake. They also show camaraderie and cooperation when caring for their neighbor’s baby, Theo (illustrations depict him and his father as black), and when rescuing their dog from a close call with a porcupine. These are quiet stories, with gentle humor infused in the dialogue and muted watercolor illustrations that overemphasize Simon’s gangly frame. The vocabulary and length of the text will place it out of reach for emergent readers in need of more robust verbal controls. Readers on the precipice of transitioning to chapter books will find this good preparation.

Welcome back, Annie and Simon . (Early reader. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7498-4

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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