This accessible series should lead young readers to the groaning shelves of middle-grade fantasy that await

THE GREAT GRANNY CAKE CONTEST!

From the Hubble Bubble series , Vol. 2

Pandora and her granny return in a new set of stories about witches who cannot refrain from using magic.

In “The Ghosts of Creakington Hall,” the chapter book’s first story, Pandora, a white, English, half-witch, half-human child, is being punished for casting spells. (She and her granny had “magicked the three little pigs out of their fairy-tale book.”) No brooms or wands are allowed on the family visit to an estate, but Granny can’t last long without fun and witchcraft. The title story involves three granny witches with their helpers, Pandora, “meanie Merlin,” and “snooty Opal” (both also white). The witches participate in a TV baking contest, but they are told: “NO MAGIC ALLOWED!” The three grannies cannot help themselves; the taping erupts into a magic-fueled food fight. The angry producer dismisses them, but the viewers can’t get enough. In the last story, Pandora’s school is disqualified from a gardening competition because Granny creates some gigantic carrots. Black ink and gray wash drawings on every page are full of humor, but there’s little sign of diversity, save for Chef Edwardo and a student, the only evident characters of color. Light doses of innocent sorcery, a loving relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter, and some occasional British slang (“tickity-boo”) add up to a funny introduction to the magic arts.

This accessible series should lead young readers to the groaning shelves of middle-grade fantasy that await . (Fantasy. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9503-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Nosy Crow/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A close encounter of the best kind.

FIELD TRIP TO THE MOON

Left behind when the space bus departs, a child discovers that the moon isn’t as lifeless as it looks.

While the rest of the space-suited class follows the teacher like ducklings, one laggard carrying crayons and a sketchbook sits down to draw our home planet floating overhead, falls asleep, and wakes to see the bus zooming off. The bright yellow bus, the gaggle of playful field-trippers, and even the dull gray boulders strewn over the equally dull gray lunar surface have a rounded solidity suggestive of Plasticine models in Hare’s wordless but cinematic scenes…as do the rubbery, one-eyed, dull gray creatures (think: those stress-busting dolls with ears that pop out when squeezed) that emerge from the regolith. The mutual shock lasts but a moment before the lunarians eagerly grab the proffered crayons to brighten the bland gray setting with silly designs. The creatures dive into the dust when the bus swoops back down but pop up to exchange goodbye waves with the errant child, who turns out to be an olive-skinned kid with a mop of brown hair last seen drawing one of their new friends with the one crayon—gray, of course—left in the box. Body language is expressive enough in this debut outing to make a verbal narrative superfluous.

A close encounter of the best kind. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4253-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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