Heidi Heckelbeck may have a secret, but in the end it is too little, too late.

HEIDI HECKELBECK HAS A SECRET

From the Heidi Heckelbeck series , Vol. 1

Homeschooled Heidi Heckelbeck is about to be a brand-new second grader at Brewster Elementary, and she is none too happy about it.

She would much prefer to continue learning at home with her younger brother Henry, where she doesn’t have to worry about whom she will sit next to at lunch or how she will find her way to the bathroom. Once at school, Heidi meets two girls. Lucy has a “warm fuzzy smile” and invites Heidi to play with her at recess, but Melanie says Heidi is smelly and scribbles on her picture during art. Though Burris’ line drawings add a nice layer of whimsy, for most of the book, Heidi seems to be just another ordinary kid dealing with the same humdrum, starting-a-new-school issues as countless other ordinary kids in countless other books. Though there are hints at what Heidi’s “secret” might be—she has her own special book, and instead of wearing “friendly” colors like pink, Heidi opts for outfits that, according to Henry, look like Halloween costumes—they are too subtle and sporadic to convincingly plant the seed that there is more to Heidi than meets the eye, leaving readers to wait for the big reveal at the end and then continue on with the series.

Heidi Heckelbeck may have a secret, but in the end it is too little, too late.    (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4087-6

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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A full-hearted valentine.

THIS IS A SCHOOL

A soaring panegyric to elementary school as a communal place to learn and grow.

“This is a kid,” Schu begins. “This is a kid in a class. This is a class in a hall….” If that class—possibly second graders, though they could be a year to either side of that—numbers only about a dozen in Jamison’s bright paintings, it makes up for that in diversity, with shiny faces of variously brown or olive complexion well outnumbering paler ones; one child using a wheelchair; and at least two who appear to be Asian. (The adult staff is likewise racially diverse.) The children are individualized in the art, but the author’s narrative is addressed more to an older set of readers as it runs almost entirely to collective nouns and abstract concepts: “We share. We help. / This is a community, growing.” Younger audiences will zero in on the pictures, which depict easily recognizable scenes of both individual and collective learning and play, with adults and classmates always on hand to help out or join in. Signs of conflict are unrealistically absent, but an occasional downcast look does add a bit of nuance to the general air of eager positivity on display. A sad face at an apartment window with a comment that “[s]ometimes something happens, and we can’t all be together” can be interpreted as an oblique reference to pandemic closings, but the central message here is that school is a physical space, not a virtual one, where learning and community happen. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A full-hearted valentine. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0458-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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Accessible, reassuring and hopeful.

THE INVISIBLE BOY

This endearing picture book about a timid boy who longs to belong has an agenda but delivers its message with great sensitivity.

Brian wants to join in but is overlooked, even ostracized, by his classmates. Readers first see him alone on the front endpapers, drawing in chalk on the ground. The school scenarios are uncomfortably familiar: High-maintenance children get the teacher’s attention; team captains choose kickball players by popularity and athletic ability; chatter about birthday parties indicates they are not inclusive events. Tender illustrations rendered in glowing hues capture Brian’s isolation deftly; compared to the others and his surroundings, he appears in black and white. What saves Brian is his creativity. As he draws, Brian imagines amazing stories, including a poignant one about a superhero with the power to make friends. When a new boy takes some ribbing, it is Brian who leaves an illustrated note to make him feel better. The boy does not forget this gesture. It only takes one person noticing Brian for the others to see his talents have value; that he has something to contribute. Brian’s colors pop. In the closing endpapers, Brian’s classmates are spread around him on the ground, “wearing” his chalk-drawn wings and capes. Use this to start a discussion: The author includes suggested questions and recommended reading lists for adults and children.

Accessible, reassuring and hopeful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-582-46450-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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