Offer this to kids who will enjoy its offbeat illustrations and hope that Venema’s next outing will be enhanced by a more...

NIGHT WINDOWS

A school-age kid is new to an apartment building in an unnamed city.

Unseen parents urge the kid to “Give the city a chance. / At second glance, you’ll find that the heat / and the beat of the streets / Will have you up on your feet. / Wait and see.” But in the building’s lobby there are “Angry faces filling the space, / Shoving, rushing, crushing, where to? Who knew.” Outside, the narrator sits down on a bench opposite the building, looks into the windows: and catalogs: “A writer, a cook, five kids / And—look! Three cats, a nest / A sparkling chest, a girl who sews, / A garden that grows, a bat and two crows.” While the text is pedestrian, deeply colored illustrations are quirky and cartoony, offering plenty to look at. Readers can spin their own stories about the characters as they hunt for objects and people, named in the verses. The story brings the many characters together to share a dinner party, with a message of friendship between diverse people, but it’s the artist’s weirdly funny sensibility that shines out of every page. The protagonist is pink-skinned, but other characters range from paper-white to brown, and one character is comfortably gender-nonconforming.

Offer this to kids who will enjoy its offbeat illustrations and hope that Venema’s next outing will be enhanced by a more original text. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-908714-56-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Cicada Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for...

DOG DAYS

From the Carver Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A gentle voice and familiar pitfalls characterize this tale of a boy navigating the risky road to responsibility. 

Gavin is new to his neighborhood and Carver Elementary. He likes his new friend, Richard, and has a typically contentious relationship with his older sister, Danielle. When Gavin’s desire to impress Richard sets off a disastrous chain of events, the boy struggles to evade responsibility for his actions. “After all, it isn’t his fault that Danielle’s snow globe got broken. Sure, he shouldn’t have been in her room—but then, she shouldn’t be keeping candy in her room to tempt him. Anybody would be tempted. Anybody!” opines Gavin once he learns the punishment for his crime. While Gavin has a charming Everyboy quality, and his aversion to Aunt Myrtle’s yapping little dog rings true, little about Gavin distinguishes him from other trouble-prone protagonists. He is, regrettably, forgettable. Coretta Scott King Honor winner English (Francie, 1999) is a teacher whose storytelling usually benefits from her day job. Unfortunately, the pizzazz of classroom chaos is largely absent from this series opener.

This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for subsequent volumes. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-97044-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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