A sweet, tender, never maudlin evocation of an intergenerational friendship.

CAN YOU WHISTLE, JOHANNA?

When his friend Ulf describes the fun he has with his grandfather, Berra wishes for his own grandfather.

To find him one, Ulf brings Berra to an old folks home, where they meet Ned, and Berra introduces himself as his grandson. Ned is lonely, so he willingly accepts the relationship. They have tea with the other residents, to whom Ned proudly introduces his newly acquired grandson. At first, recalling Ulf’s tales, Berra asks Ned for money, which he gladly gives. After several more visits, Ned takes them to the park, where Ned builds a kite made from sticks and his wife’s silk scarf while speaking lovingly about his wife, Johanna, and whistling the pretty tune that is also the title of this book. Berra’s relationship with Ned grows deeper. He tries to whistle just like Ned and plans a birthday surprise for him that pleases and delights the old man. Ned tires easily and gets confused and lost, but the 7-year-olds don’t really see the ramifications. Berra waits until he can whistle before his next visit but discovers that Ned has died. In a tribute to his adopted grandfather, he whistles his favorite song for him at his funeral. In this Swedish import, the author’s namesake Ulf, who is observer, participant, and good friend, narrates the tale in a direct, matter-of-fact tone. Höglund’s deceptively simple, colorful cartoons beautifully capture the characters’ emotions and actions. Characters present white.

A sweet, tender, never maudlin evocation of an intergenerational friendship. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-776573-25-7

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Gecko Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.

HORRIBLE HARRY SAYS GOODBYE

From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A long-running series reaches its closing chapters.

Having, as Kline notes in her warm valedictory acknowledgements, taken 30 years to get through second and third grade, Harry Spooger is overdue to move on—but not just into fourth grade, it turns out, as his family is moving to another town as soon as the school year ends. The news leaves his best friend, narrator “Dougo,” devastated…particularly as Harry doesn’t seem all that fussed about it. With series fans in mind, the author takes Harry through a sort of last-day-of-school farewell tour. From his desk he pulls a burned hot dog and other items that featured in past episodes, says goodbye to Song Lee and other classmates, and even (for the first time ever) leads Doug and readers into his house and memento-strewn room for further reminiscing. Of course, Harry isn’t as blasé about the move as he pretends, and eyes aren’t exactly dry when he departs. But hardly is he out of sight before Doug is meeting Mohammad, a new neighbor from Syria who (along with further diversifying a cast that began as mostly white but has become increasingly multiethnic over the years) will also be starting fourth grade at summer’s end, and planning a written account of his “horrible” buddy’s exploits. Finished illustrations not seen.

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47963-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic.

STICKS AND STONES

Veteran picture-book creator Polacco tells another story from her childhood that celebrates the importance of staying true to one’s own interests and values.

After years of spending summers with her father and grandmother, narrator Trisha is excited to be spending the school year in Michigan with them. Unexpectedly abandoned by her summertime friends, Trisha quickly connects with fellow outsiders Thom and Ravanne, who may be familiar to readers from Polacco’s The Junkyard Wonders (2010). Throughout the school year, the three enjoy activities together and do their best to avoid school bully Billy. While a physical confrontation between Thom (aka “Sissy Boy”) and Billy does come, so does an opportunity for Thom to defy convention and share his talent with the community. Loosely sketched watercolor illustrations place the story in the middle of the last century, with somewhat old-fashioned clothing and an apparently all-White community. Trisha and her classmates appear to be what today would be called middle schoolers; a reference to something Trisha and her mom did when she was “only eight” suggests that several years have passed since that time. As usual, the lengthy first-person narrative is cozily conversational but includes some challenging vocabulary (textiles, lackeys, foretold). The author’s note provides a brief update about her friends’ careers and encourages readers to embrace their own differences. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2622-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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