Lovely—a perfect segue into discussions about loneliness, empathy, refugees, and more.

ME + TREE

A tree stump on an urban playground and a girl new to the neighborhood forge a bond with their life stories.

This is one of those rare picture books that demands equal attention to lyrical text and outstanding art (always in double-page spreads) to work its magic. Before the text begins, readers are treated to a rainbow of tree rings across the pages. The next spread’s collage art shows a run-down urban setting, including chain-link fencing, tired playground equipment, tall brick buildings (painted with cheery graffiti that brighten the scene)—and a thick stump, introduced by a single line of text. The page turn reveals an entirely different mood: An enormous apple tree spreads across the pages, full of fruit, leaves, and active people. The text explains that this was the stump’s former life. The following pages lead readers from the tree’s demise to the unnoticed girl on the playground who spies the stump, whispers to it, and traces its rings. With her fingertip, she draws her own story upon the stump, from idyllic childhood to scenes of the girl and other people (many are brown-skinned; some women are in headscarves) leaving their homes and then making a dangerous sea voyage. Short but powerful phrases with extensive, carefully contextualized vocabulary reveal the girl’s emotions as she draws. The final double-page spread’s art relieves the sweet melancholia of the penultimate one.

Lovely—a perfect segue into discussions about loneliness, empathy, refugees, and more. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-56846-346-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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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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