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 nice and timely depiction of an immigrant child experience.

STELLA DÍAZ HAS SOMETHING TO SAY

From the Stella Díaz series , Vol. 1

Speaking up is hard when you’re shy, and it can be even harder if you’ve got two languages in your head.

Third-grader Estrella “Stella” Díaz, is a shy, Mexican-American girl who draws pictures and loves fish, and she lives in Chicago with her mother and older brother, Nick. Jenny, Stella’s best friend, isn’t in her class this year, and Stella feels lonely—especially when she sees that Vietnamese-American Jenny is making new friends. When a new student, Stanley Mason, arrives in her class, Stella introduces herself in Spanish to the white former Texan without realizing it and becomes embarrassed. Surely Stanley won’t want to befriend her after that—but he seems to anyway. Stella often confuses the pronunciation between English and Spanish sounds and takes speech classes. As an immigrant with a green card—a “legal alien,” according to her teacher—Stella feels that she doesn’t fully belong to either American culture or Mexican culture, and this is nicely reflected in her not being fully comfortable in either language, an experience familiar to many immigrant and first-generation children. This early-middle-grade book features italicized Spanish words and phrases with direct translations right after. There is a small subplot about bullying from Stella’s classmate, and readers will cheer as they see how, with the help of her friends and family, Stella overcomes her shyness and gives a presentation on Jacques Cousteau. Dominguez’s friendly black-and-white drawings grace most pages.

A nice and timely depiction of an immigrant child experience. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62672-858-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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