Bullying is a hot topic, so this average effort joins an already crowded field.

THE BLUE VASE

After she accidentally breaks what she believes to be a valuable vase at the home of her babysitter, Sonia, a recent immigrant from Moldova, is blackmailed by the woman’s granddaughter Marta, a classmate.

First Marta demands Sonia’s treasured eraser collection to ensure she’ll keep the secret of the broken vase, but the bully quickly ups the ante, requiring daily payoffs of whatever she can force Sonia to turn over. Sonia, unfortunately, keeps quiet about the situation, believing that otherwise her financially struggling parents will be forced to pay for the vase. Humiliated by the blackmail and other bullying, Sonia avoids school when she can and hides whenever she’s able. Under some eventual prodding from her teacher, she gradually reveals her plight, leading to a too-easy solution. Sonia’s narrative voice rarely rings true, too often sounding oddly authorial. Among illustrator Bisaillon’s frequent, somewhat surreal illustrations is one that is out of sync with the text and, more critically, fails to convey that Marta’s “face looked like a thundercloud.” Still, Sonia’s teacher’s wise, spot-on advice helps make up for the shortcomings of this brief, simplistic novel: “Some kids who are bullied feel so much despair that they want to disappear. They forget about all the people who love them and could help.”

Bullying is a hot topic, so this average effort joins an already crowded field. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-896580-91-3

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Tradewind Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is...

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CRENSHAW

Applegate tackles homelessness in her first novel since 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan.

Hunger is a constant for soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson and his family, and the accompanying dizziness may be why his imaginary friend is back. A giant cat named Crenshaw first appeared after Jackson finished first grade, when his parents moved the family into their minivan for several months. Now they’re facing eviction again, and Jackson’s afraid that he won’t be going to school next year with his friend Marisol. When Crenshaw shows up on a surfboard, Jackson, an aspiring scientist who likes facts, wonders whether Crenshaw is real or a figment of his imagination. Jackson’s first-person narrative moves from the present day, when he wishes that his parents understood that he’s old enough to hear the truth about the family’s finances, to the first time they were homeless and back to the present. The structure allows readers access to the slow buildup of Jackson’s panic and his need for a friend and stability in his life. Crenshaw tells Jackson that “Imaginary friends don’t come of their own volition. We are invited. We stay as long as we’re needed.” The cat’s voice, with its adult tone, is the conduit for the novel’s lessons: “You need to tell the truth, my friend….To the person who matters most of all.”

Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is nevertheless a somberly affecting one . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04323-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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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