Funny and light but with enough of a plot to keep readers interested.

THE WACKY WINTER WONDERLAND!

From the Hubble Bubble series

Pandora and Granny continue their magical partnership in this chapter book that presents three discrete stories.

In the first, Granny creates lots of Christmas fun at a disappointing Winter Wonderland. When they arrive, the promised snow is made of shaving foam; the ice rink is “just dirty sheets of bubble wrap stuck together.” There are no reindeer, just dogs with antlers, and the sleigh is a pig trough. With several flicks of her wand, Granny transforms everything into the “most wacky and wonderful” Winter Wonderland for Pandora and her friends Jake and Nellie. Pandora is white and so is Jake, but Nellie is darker-skinned in the illustrations. In “Best in Show,” Cobweb the cat easily wins first prize with his beautiful grooming, courtesy of Pandora’s hard work, and his tightrope and trapeze act, thanks to Granny. In “Museum Mayhem!” Granny acts as the chaperon at a class sleepover at the history museum. Using her magic to bring history to life, she introduces the class to Vikings, Egyptians, Tudors, and Stone Age animals. She even turns Mr. Bibble, the teacher, into Henry VIII. Amusing line-and-wash drawings enhanced with red appear on almost every page, making this beginning chapter book very attractive for newly proficient readers.

Funny and light but with enough of a plot to keep readers interested. (Fantasy. 6-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9624-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Nosy Crow/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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 second scintillating celebration of personal style and dad-daughter DIY.

THE ONE AND ONLY SPARKELLA MAKES A PLAN

From the Sparkella series , Vol. 2

Reality puts only a temporary damper on big, glittery plans for a sleepover castle.

New school friend Tam, who shared bánh mi at lunch in The One and Only Sparkella (2021), is arriving in two hours, and before that Sparkella needs to make a castle “fit for two royal highnesses.” Unfortunately, even with Dad’s help, the flimsy cardboard construction collapses as soon as Sparkella climbs inside to test it. What to do? After giving the pouting princess some personal time in the garage, Dad points the way: “I think you have to take what you have and make it SPARKLE like only you can.” And, indeed, by the time brown-skinned “Tam, Queen of Kittens” is dropped off by her grandma, a pair of folding tables have been transformed with paint, wrapping paper, and colorful fabrics into the sparkliest castle ever! Laying on saturated colors and sprays of tiny stars with a lavish hand, Barnes depicts the two young “royals” in flamboyantly decorated settings—even Dad’s motorcycle is a dazzling confection awash in bows, and Dad himself, light-skinned like Sparkella, isn’t the least decorative element considering his fondness for sporting a purple boa and outrageous eyewear when occasion demands. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A second scintillating celebration of personal style and dad-daughter DIY. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-75076-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: tomorrow

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