An empathetic introduction to a new series of early chapter books.

READ REVIEW

THE CANDY CAPER

From the Trouble at Table 5 series , Vol. 1

Molly, a grade schooler with a few quirks, gets help from her two best friends in solving a problem that’s bothering her.

Molly likes to count things, shuns food not of certain colors, and eats some other foods only in even numbers. Her parents are both aware of her extreme focus and completely accepting of it: “That’s just who you are,” they say. Molly’s best friends, one a perceptive black girl and the other a white boy with an expansive imagination—Molly is biracial, with a black mom and white dad—are just as understanding. When Molly becomes consumed with the need to count the number of Skittles in a big jar on their principal’s desk, the two naturally pitch in to help her find a way to get into a little trouble—just enough to lead to an office visit—and then methods for both luring the principal away and giving Molly the opportunity to complete the count. Their clever problem-solving skills are as much on display as their empathy with Molly’s unique personality. Large-print chapters are brief and illustration-rich, and each concludes with a series of milestone boxes that show emergent readers how much of the book they’ve already gotten through. With likable characters, an amusing situation, and lots of reinforcement for readers, this effort is sure to be a hit. What underlies Molly’s quirks is never explored within the story, leaving her behavior open to interpretation.

An empathetic introduction to a new series of early chapter books. (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-295341-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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For fans of Evert and Breiehagen’s Wish Book series.

THE POLAR BEAR WISH

Anja and her dog, Birki, do their best to get to a Christmas party in a frozen Nordic landscape.

Anja wishes she had a dog sled to harness Birki to in order to get to the party. The next morning, her cousin Erik appears with his dog sled and an offer to take her there. Lost in a blizzard, they encounter talking wolves who take them to a tent where they can spend the night. A baby polar bear named Tiny appears, separated from his mother. The following day takes them all on an adventure through glaciers and fjords, past an ice castle, and finally to Tiny’s mother and to the party. This digitally produced book is illustrated with photographs that capture the Nordic setting. Unfortunately, the overall effect is weirdly flat, with elements awkwardly set together in images that lack depth. A polar bear perches awkwardly on top of oddly scaled pack ice; Anja and Erik spend a night in the ice castle in niches chiseled into the wall, but they seem oddly disconnected from it. The book has an old-fashioned, European feel; the white, blond children’s red caps and traditional clothing stand out against the dim, bluish winter light. But the wooden, overlong text does little to cultivate the magical fantasy feeling that it’s aiming for.

For fans of Evert and Breiehagen’s Wish Book series. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6566-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character

PEDRO, FIRST-GRADE HERO

From the Pedro series , Vol. 1

The creators of the Katie Woo series turn their focus to a peripheral character, first-grader Pedro—Katie’s friend and schoolmate.

Four short chapters—“Pedro Goes Buggy,” “Pedro’s Big Goal,” “Pedro’s Mystery Club,” and “Pedro For President”—highlight a Latino main character surrounded by a superbly diverse cast. At times unsure of himself, Pedro is extremely likable, for he wants to do his best and is a fair friend. He consistently comes out on top, even when his younger brother releases all the bugs he’s captured for a class assignment or when self-assured bully Roddy tries to unite opposition to Pedro’s female opponent (Katie Woo) in the race for first-grade class president. Using a third-person, past-tense narrative voice, Manushkin expands her repertoire by adding a hero comparable to EllRay Jakes. What is refreshing about the book is that for the most part, aside from Roddy’s gender-based bullying, the book overcomes boy-girl stereotypes: girls and boys play soccer, boys and girls run for president, girls and boys hunt for bugs, all setting a progressive standard for chapter books. With mixed-media illustrations featuring colorful bugs, soccer action, a mystery hunt, and a presidential campaign, Lyon’s attention to detail in color and facial expressions complements the story nicely.

This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character . (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5158-0112-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Picture Window Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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