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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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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INDIAN SHOES

A very pleasing first-chapter book from its funny and tender opening salvo to its heartwarming closer. Ray and his Grampa Halfmoon live in Chicago, but Grampa comes from Oklahoma. Six vignettes make up the short chapters. Among them: Ray finds a way to buy Grampa the pair of moccasins that remind him of home and Smith gets in a gentle jab at the commercialization of Native American artifacts. At a Christmas stuck far away from the Oklahoma relatives the pair finds comfort and joy even when the electricity goes out, and in a funny sequence of disasters, a haircut gone seriously awry enables a purple-and-orange dye job to be just the ticket for little-league spirit. The language is spare, clean, and rhythmic, with a little sentimentality to soften the edges. Ray and Grampa have a warm and loving intergenerational bond that’s an added treat. With a nod toward contemporary Native Americans, Grampa tells Cherokee and Seminole family stories, and when Ray gets to be in a wedding party, the groom is Polish-Menominee and his bride is Choctaw. An excellent choice for younger readers from the author of the bittersweet Rain Is Not My Indian Name (2001). (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-029531-7

Page Count: 80

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2002

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