From the Twitch the Squirrel series

Readers will go nuts (mostly acorns) for this book!

“Cinderella” has never been so squirrelly.

Twitch, a squirrel who lives in the trees near a school, is back for another adventure, this time upon the stage! Visiting his friend Sweetie, the school library’s pet albino rat, one evening, Twitch learns that the students will be staging a theatrical version of “Cinderella.” Sweetie has a certain fondness for this story, because the fairy godmother selects a rat to drive the pumpkin coach. Twitch decides that his friend must see the show and hatches a plan (sort of) for the nearsighted rat to be close enough to enjoy the spectacle. Unsurprisingly, the duo’s adventure doesn’t go by the fairy-tale book, and while Sweetie becomes a little more involved in the onstage antics than he anticipated, Twitch finds a nemesis of sorts in Miss Krause, the school librarian and the play’s director. Readers who know Twitch from his previous stories are in for a side-splitting new adventure, and those unfamiliar will want to seek out his other stories. Alternating chapters between Twitch’s and Sweetie’s points of view allows both characters to develop fully and shine. Sweetie’s vision issues are a good reminder that people (and rats) with different abilities all deserve starring roles. Scribbly, expressive black-and-white illustrations depict a diverse student body. An afterword from all the school’s various classroom pets and a Q&A with the author provide additional insights for book clubs and classroom discussion.

Readers will go nuts (mostly acorns) for this book! (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8234-5215-6

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2022


From the Rafi and Rosi series

A welcome, well-researched reflection of cultural pride in the early-reader landscape.

The fourth installment in Delacre’s early-reader series centers on the rich musical traditions of Puerto Rico, once again featuring sibling tree frogs Rafi and Rosi Coquí.

Readers learn along with Rafi and Rosi as they explore bomba, plena, and salsa in three chapters. A glossary at the beginning sets readers up well to understand the Spanish vocabulary, including accurate phoneticization for non-Spanish speakers. The stories focus on Rafi and Rosi’s relationship within a musical context. For example, in one chapter Rafi finds out that he attracts a larger audience playing his homemade güiro with Rosi’s help even though he initially excluded her: “Big brothers only.” Even when he makes mistakes, as the older brother, Rafi consoles Rosi when she is embarrassed or angry at him. In each instance, their shared joy for music and dance ultimately shines through any upsets—a valuable reflection of unity. Informational backmatter and author’s sources are extensive. Undoubtedly these will help teachers, librarians, and parents to develop Puerto Rican cultural programs, curriculum, or home activities to extend young readers’ learning. The inclusion of instructions to make one’s own homemade güiro is a thoughtful addition. The Spanish translation, also by Delacre and published simultaneously, will require a more advanced reader than the English one to recognize and comprehend contractions (“pa’bajo-pa-pa’rriba”) and relatively sophisticated vocabulary.

A welcome, well-researched reflection of cultural pride in the early-reader landscape. (Early reader. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-89239-429-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Children's Book Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019


From the Franklin School Friends series

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading.

When Franklin School principal Mr. Boone announces a pet-show fundraiser, white third-grader Cody—whose lack of skill and interest in academics is matched by keen enthusiasm for and knowledge of animals—discovers his time to shine.

As with other books in this series, the children and adults are believable and well-rounded. Even the dialogue is natural—no small feat for a text easily accessible to intermediate readers. Character growth occurs, organically and believably. Students occasionally, humorously, show annoyance with teachers: “He made mad squinty eyes at Mrs. Molina, which fortunately she didn’t see.” Readers will be kept entertained by Cody’s various problems and the eventual solutions. His problems include needing to raise $10 to enter one of his nine pets in the show (he really wants to enter all of them), his troublesome dog Angus—“a dog who ate homework—actually, who ate everything and then threw up afterward”—struggles with homework, and grappling with his best friend’s apparently uncaring behavior toward a squirrel. Serious values and issues are explored with a light touch. The cheery pencil illustrations show the school’s racially diverse population as well as the memorable image of Mr. Boone wearing an elephant costume. A minor oddity: why does a child so immersed in animal facts call his male chicken a rooster but his female chickens chickens?

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30223-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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