Four eccentric but gallant children get into an amazing amount of trouble in this madcap comedy from McKay (The Amber Cat, 1997, etc.). The Robinson family’s mother is sick and their father takes her away to recuperate, sending the twelve-year-old twins, Perry and Ant, to visit with their kooky Aunt Mabel, while ten-year-old Sun Dance and eight-year-old Beany stay with a neighbor. The twins are supposed to travel alone by train to Mabel’s, but they get off at the wrong stop and are several hours late. They know Mabel neither by her appearance, nor her last name, so wind up moving in with a bizarre old lady who is too batty to tell them that she’s not their aunt. Meanwhile, Sun Dance devises a burglar trap, accidentally ensnaring Mabel, who is searching for the missing twins. Not to be outdone, Beany spends her time wishing on what she believes to be a magical sword, then digs up the garden to see if her wish—that her recently buried beloved dog went to heaven—came true. For readers unfamiliar with the previous books about this lot, the set-up may feel sluggish; that the whole affair is wildly improbable won’t surprise McKay’s fans. Ultimately, the book gains momentum, becomes enjoyably outrageous, and culminates in an amusing, gratifying ending. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-689-82376-2

Page Count: 153

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1999

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There is something profoundly elemental going on in Smalls’s book: the capturing of a moment of unmediated joy. It’s not melodramatic, but just a Saturday in which an African-American father and son immerse themselves in each other’s company when the woman of the house is away. Putting first things first, they tidy up the house, with an unheralded sense of purpose motivating their actions: “Then we clean, clean, clean the windows,/wipe, wipe, wash them right./My dad shines in the windows’ light.” When their work is done, they head for the park for some batting practice, then to the movies where the boy gets to choose between films. After a snack, they work their way homeward, racing each other, doing a dance step or two, then “Dad takes my hand and slows down./I understand, and we slow down./It’s a long, long walk./We have a quiet talk and smile.” Smalls treats the material without pretense, leaving it guileless and thus accessible to readers. Hays’s artwork is wistful and idyllic, just as this day is for one small boy. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-79899-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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Ramona returns (Ramona Forever, 1988, etc.), and she’s as feisty as ever, now nine-going-on-ten (or “zeroteen,” as she calls it). Her older sister Beezus is in high school, baby-sitting, getting her ears pierced, and going to her first dance, and now they have a younger baby sister, Roberta. Cleary picks up on all the details of fourth grade, from comparing hand calluses to the distribution of little plastic combs by the school photographer. This year Ramona is trying to improve her spelling, and Cleary is especially deft at limning the emotional nuances as Ramona fails and succeeds, goes from sad to happy, and from hurt to proud. The grand finale is Ramona’s birthday party in the park, complete with a cake frosted in whipped cream. Despite a brief mention of nose piercing, Cleary’s writing still reflects a secure middle-class family and untroubled school life, untouched by the classroom violence or the broken families of the 1990s. While her book doesn’t match what’s in the newspapers, it’s a timeless, serene alternative for children, especially those with less than happy realities. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16816-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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