Young dog lovers will enjoy Fenway’s point of view, even if his eagerness wears a bit thin.



From the Fenway and Hattie series

Fenway, a young, exuberant Jack Russell terrier, is having lots of trouble getting his “short human,” Hattie, to behave.

The family’s move from the city to the suburbs just complicates matters. First, there is the issue of the very slippery kitchen floor. After losing his footing the first time, Fenway refuses to venture out there again, even if it is the Eating Place. The backyard, which he perceives as an unpopulated Dog Park, is another issue, since nasty squirrels scamper through and Hattie climbs into a treehouse—squirrel house?—that he can’t reach. The two neighbors next door, a couple of jaded dogs, don’t improve things. Hattie is reluctantly learning to throw and catch a white ball in a big, fat glove and for some reason doesn’t welcome his enthusiastic help. And finally, there is the issue of the big group of dogs Hattie keeps taking him to visit, with whom he must learn to sit in order to receive treats. Fenway’s first-person point of view is appropriately frisky, even slightly berserk at times. But the jokes are used and then reused and begin to turn from funny into tedious repetition. More books in the series are promised; here’s hoping some new doggy dilemmas will emerge.

Young dog lovers will enjoy Fenway’s point of view, even if his eagerness wears a bit thin. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-17274-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)


Ryan Hart is navigating the fourth grade and all its challenges with determination.

Her mom named her Ryan because it means “king,” and she wanted Ryan to feel powerful every time she heard her name; Ryan knows it means she is a leader. So when changes occur or disaster strikes, budding chef Ryan does her best to find the positive and “make sunshine.” When her dad is laid off from the post office, the family must make adjustments that include moving into a smaller house, selling their car, and changing how they shop for groceries. But Ryan gets to stay at Vernon Elementary, and her mom still finds a way to get her the ingredients she needs to practice new recipes. Her older brother, Ray, can be bossy, but he finds little ways to support her, especially when she is down—as does the whole family. Each episodic chapter confronts Ryan with a situation; intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching, they should be familiar and accessible to readers, as when Ryan fumbles her Easter speech despite careful practice. Ryan, her family, and friends are black, and Watson continues to bring visibility to both Portland, Oregon, generally and its black community specifically, making another wonderful contribution that allows black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love.

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0056-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers.


From the Kate the Chemist series

A fifth grade girl brings her love of chemistry to the school play.

Kate loves science so much she’s determined to breathe fire. Of course she knows that she needs adult supervision, and so, with her science teacher’s help, Kate demonstrates an experiment with cornstarch and a blowtorch that nearly sets her teacher’s cactus on fire. Consequences ensue. Can someone who loves science as much as Kate does find pleasure spending her fall break at drama camp? It turns out that even the school play—Dragons vs. Unicorns—needs a chemist, though, and Kate saves the day with glue and glitter. She’s sabotaged along the way, but everything is fine after Kate and her frenemy agree to communicate better (an underwhelming response to escalating bullying). Doodles decorate the pages; steps for the one experiment described that can be done at home—making glittery unicorn-horn glue—are included. The most exciting experiments depicted, though, include flames or liquid nitrogen and could only be done with the help of a friendly science teacher. Biberdorf teaches chemistry at the University of Texas and also performs science-education programs as “Kate the Chemist”; in addition to giving her protagonist her name and enthusiasm, she also seems represented in Kate-the-character’s love of the fictional YouTube personality “Dr. Caroline.” Kate and her nemesis are white; Kate’s best friends are black and South Asian.

A fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11655-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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