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

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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ENEMY PIE

Bland pictures and superficial presentation sink this problem-solver. Feeling slighted by new neighbor Jeremy, the aggrieved young narrator accepts his father’s offer to make an “enemy pie.” Dad insists on doing the baking, but tells the lad that the recipe also requires spending a day playing with the enemy—after which, predictably, the two lads sit down as newly minted friends for pie à la mode. Though the narrator speculates about the pie’s ingredients, the promisingly gross worm-and-weed dishes on the cover never materialize in the illustrations inside, nor are any of Jeremy’s supposed offenses depicted. Instead, King shows the boys in a series of conventional, static scenes, throwing water balloons at girls and other fun activities. Meanwhile, Dad’s fixed, knowing smile invites viewers to share the conceit—even though his naïve son never does catch on. And is Jeremy really so hostile? He displays so little individual character that it’s hard to get a read on him; he just seems to be going with the flow. Invite readers to order up a bowl of Betsy Everitt’s Mean Soup (1992) instead, or a slice of Margie Palatini’s Piggie Pie (1995). (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8118-2778-X

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2000

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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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