From the Sophie Hartley series , Vol. 1

Sophie’s little heart is breaking, but in a funny way. She feels fat, clumsy and useless, so she’s developing two lists, her strengths (crying and stopping crying) and her weaknesses (horseback riding, ballet, sitting still), and her family is helping. Her older, prima donna sister, who is graceful, elegant and fabulous, says Sophie is good at whining and crying, and her Mom says she is good at being kind. Is a talent something that’s easy to do? No, Sophie discovers as she learns that it’s hard work to be nice to her angry, elderly wheelchair-bound neighbor and to her friendless, snotty know-it-all classmate. This humorous voyage to self-discovery insightfully pinpoints the importance of self-knowledge, hard work and focus. Greene’s simple plot, droll dialogue and strong characters intimately bring the reader into Sophie’s world—one that feels wonderfully like Ramona Quimby’s. The reader will understand on multiple levels why it’s important to Sophie to learn how to curtsy and wear a tiara, and they’ll smile slyly as Sophie applies her learned wisdom inwardly and outwardly, never a prima donna, but ultimately in charge of heart and soul—definitely the queen. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 18, 2005

ISBN: 0-618-49461-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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From the author of the Animorphs series comes this earnest novel in verse about an orphaned Sudanese war refugee with a passion for cows, who has resettled in Minnesota with relatives. Arriving in winter, Kek spots a cow that reminds him of his father’s herd, a familiar sight in an alien world. Later he returns with Hannah, a friendly foster child, and talks the cow’s owner into hiring him to look after it. When the owner plans to sell the cow, Kek becomes despondent. Full of wide-eyed amazement and unalloyed enthusiasm for all things American, Kek is a generic—bordering on insulting—stereotype. His tribe, culture and language are never identified; personal details, such as appearance and age, are vague or omitted. Lacking the quirks and foibles that bring characters to life, Kek seems more a composite of traits designed to instruct readers than an engaging individual in his own right. Despite its lackluster execution, this story’s simple premise and basic vocabulary make it suitable for younger readers interested in the plight of war refugees. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-312-36765-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2007

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From the Lemonade War series , Vol. 1

Told from the point of view of two warring siblings, this could have been an engaging first chapter book. Unfortunately, the length makes it less likely to appeal to the intended audience. Jessie and Evan are usually good friends as well as sister and brother. But the news that bright Jessie will be skipping a grade to join Evan’s fourth-grade class creates tension. Evan believes himself to be less than clever; Jessie’s emotional maturity doesn’t quite measure up to her intelligence. Rivalry and misunderstandings grow as the two compete to earn the most money in the waning days of summer. The plot rolls along smoothly and readers will be able to both follow the action and feel superior to both main characters as their motivations and misconceptions are clearly displayed. Indeed, a bit more subtlety in characterization might have strengthened the book’s appeal. The final resolution is not entirely believable, but the emphasis on cooperation and understanding is clear. Earnest and potentially successful, but just misses the mark. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 23, 2007

ISBN: 0-618-75043-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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