Although full of candies and melting Popsicles, this sweet tale is refreshing rather than cloying.

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PENELOPE CRUMB FINDS HER LUCK

From the Penelope Crumb series , Vol. 3

Penelope returns in her third adventure, in which she struggles with leading a community mural-painting project, helping plan the secret escape of an elderly yet feisty fortuneteller and avoiding the Bad Luck as much as possible.

As in the previous books, Penelope is still coping with the loss of her Graveyard Dead dad as well as the fact that her former best friend, Patsy Cline, has a new BFF in Vera Bogg. All she wants is to be someone’s Favorite and to benefit from some Good Luck, but she knows that the Bad Luck is perpetually waiting (like “surprise test[s] on decimal points”). Perhaps it’s a sign her luck is changing for the better when she is voted to lead the Mother Goose mural painting at the Portwaller’s Blessed Home for the Aging, but she soon discovers being the boss isn’t so easy. Stout populates her story with appealing characters who shine in both snappy dialogue and Penelope’s wry yet winsome first-person narration. A lost lucky charm, a reception revealing a most unusual interpretation of Mother Goose and a foiled getaway all lead to the realization that what matters most is having people around who value you for who you are and that “things don’t always stay the same”—and that many times, “that could be a good thing.”

Although full of candies and melting Popsicles, this sweet tale is refreshing rather than cloying. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-399-16254-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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Sweetly low-key and totally accessible.

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THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER

Billy Miller’s second-grade year is quietly spectacular in a wonderfully ordinary way.

Billy’s year begins with his worry over the lump on his head, a souvenir of a dramatic summer fall onto concrete: Will he be up to the challenges his new teacher promises in her letter to students? Quickly overshadowing that worry, however, is a diplomatic crisis over whether he has somehow offended Ms. Silver on the first day of school. Four sections—Teacher, Father, Sister and Mother—offer different and essential focal points for Billy’s life, allowing both him and readers to explore several varieties of creative endeavor, small adventures, and, especially, both challenges and successful problem-solving. The wonderfully self-possessed Sal, his 3-year-old sister, is to Billy much as Ramona is to Beezus, but without the same level of tension. Her pillowcase full of the plush yellow whales she calls the Drop Sisters (Raindrop, Gumdrop, etc.) is a memorable prop. Henkes offers what he so often does in these longer works for children: a sense that experiences don’t have to be extraordinary to be important and dramatic. Billy’s slightly dreamy interior life isn’t filled with either angst or boisterous silliness—rather, the moments that appear in these stories are clarifying bits of the universal larger puzzle of growing up, changing and understanding the world. Small, precise black-and-white drawings punctuate and decorate the pages.

Sweetly low-key and totally accessible. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-226812-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Young readers will recognize Suds as one of their own and will gladly follow him to fourth grade. Sweet and funny.

THIRD GRADE ANGELS

Suds Morton is not yet a “Fourth Grade Rat.” In this prequel to Spinelli's 1991 standby, he is a year younger and, according to his school’s traditional chant, he aspires to the sobriquet of “Third Grade Angel.”

When his teacher announces her intention of rewarding angelic behavior with a halo, Suds decides he wants to be the first angel. Between his cool new friend Joey, his wise mom and a little conclusion-jumping, he comes up with a plan. But, of course, his results are just a little off-kilter. Suds, nicknamed for his preference for calming soaks in bubble baths when he gets “chipmunky,” needs all the help he can get to deal with the various disasters and tribulations that threaten to overwhelm him. Along with the angel chase there’s a pesky little sister, a fifth-grade bully and total rejection by the girl he adores. Spinelli doesn’t miss a beat in recreating the characters from the earlier work and never reveals any hint of Suds’ fourth-grade future. He lets readers into Suds’ 8-year-old mind without condescension. His problems and concerns are treated comically but with genuine kindness. Suds is innocent, gullible and trusting; he is also entirely good-hearted.

Young readers will recognize Suds as one of their own and will gladly follow him to fourth grade. Sweet and funny. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-38772-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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