SOPHIE AND THE SIDEWALK MAN

An honest presentation of a contemporary problem, by an author who has explored moral issues with unusual insight in books for older children (A Good Courage, 1988). Sophie's energies are devoted to earning enough money to buy an endearing toy hedgehog. She's an only child with an allergic mother, precluding a pet; she's also sure that ``Weldon'' will supplant snooty Veronica's doll at a school Toyland celebration. Meanwhile, a homeless man and his sign—``I'm hungry''—prey on her conscience; as she tries to earn the $40 for Weldon, she worries about the man and finally gives him half her money. A disarmingly simple narrative, with telling details slipped in naturally: Sophie offers to help her mother, who is so grateful that Sophie decides not to ask for pay; skipping school lunch to save money, she finds that her hunger feeds her sympathy for the man. A realistic, inconclusive discussion between Sophie and her mother gently summarizes the tangled issues surrounding handouts to the homeless. In the end, the man remains an unknown who simply disappears; Sophie has acted from motives and understanding that have grown over the course of the story; and she does get the hedgehog—too late for the school competition, but that's no longer important. A thoughtful, intelligent, and appealing book, with respect for its young readers and for the problem it explores. Illustrations not seen. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-02-789365-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Four Winds/MacMillan

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1992

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An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.

BOOKMARKS ARE PEOPLE TOO!

From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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Readers will be waiting to see how Charlie faces his next challenge in a series that marks a lovely change of pace from the...

CHARLIE BUMPERS VS. THE TEACHER OF THE YEAR

From the Charlie Bumpers series , Vol. 1

Charlie Bumpers is doomed. The one teacher he never wanted in the whole school turns out to be his fourth-grade teacher.

Charlie recalls third grade, when he accidentally hit the scariest teacher in the whole school with his sneaker. “I know all about you, Charlie Bumpers,” she says menacingly on the first day of fourth grade. Now, in addition to all the hardships of starting school, he has gotten off on the wrong foot with her. Charlie’s dry and dramatic narrative voice clearly reveals the inner life of a 9-year-old—the glass is always half empty, especially in light of a series of well-intentioned events gone awry. It’s quite a litany: “Hitting Mrs. Burke in the head with the sneaker. The messy desk. The swinging on the door. The toilet paper. And now this—the shoe on the roof.” Harley has teamed once again with illustrator Gustavson (Lost and Found, 2012) to create a real-life world in which a likable kid must face the everyday terrors of childhood: enormous bullies, looming teachers and thick gym coaches with huge pointing fingers. Into this series opener, Harley magically weaves the simple lesson that people, even teachers, can surprise you.

Readers will be waiting to see how Charlie faces his next challenge in a series that marks a lovely change of pace from the sarcasm of Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-56145-732-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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