The series continues to present appealing and likable characters gently exploring the moral dilemmas of childhood.

DON'T FEED THE GECKOS!

From the Carver Chronicles series , Vol. 3

Bernardo, Carlos’ cousin whom he hasn’t seen in years, is temporarily moving in with Carlos and his family.

As in the prior two installments of the series, this title features an elementary-age, male protagonist of color. Carlos has recently discovered his love of animals. He’s motivated to work hard in school, and he keeps pets that help him learn more about animal behavior, including his prized geckos. Carlos doesn’t know much about Bernardo, just that he has had what is vaguely defined as a “hard year.” When Bernardo arrives, Carlos isn’t sure what to think. He finds himself sharing his room, his class, his soccer team—everything—with Bernardo. He wants to make Bernardo feel welcome but grows increasingly frustrated with his cousin’s sneaky and aggressive behavior. Appropriately, given the tight focus on Carlos’ perspective, the book doesn’t focus on the details of Bernardo’s challenges but rather on the ways in which he acts out, at times behaving as a bit of a bully. Eventually the tension boils over into a confrontation, followed by a somewhat rushed resolution and a lesson about empathy. Many independent readers, particularly boys, will identify with these characters and their struggles.

The series continues to present appealing and likable characters gently exploring the moral dilemmas of childhood. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-57529-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A second scintillating celebration of personal style and dad-daughter DIY.

THE ONE AND ONLY SPARKELLA MAKES A PLAN

From the Sparkella series , Vol. 2

Reality puts only a temporary damper on big, glittery plans for a sleepover castle.

New school friend Tam, who shared bánh mi at lunch in The One and Only Sparkella (2021), is arriving in two hours, and before that Sparkella needs to make a castle “fit for two royal highnesses.” Unfortunately, even with Dad’s help, the flimsy cardboard construction collapses as soon as Sparkella climbs inside to test it. What to do? After giving the pouting princess some personal time in the garage, Dad points the way: “I think you have to take what you have and make it SPARKLE like only you can.” And, indeed, by the time brown-skinned “Tam, Queen of Kittens” is dropped off by her grandma, a pair of folding tables have been transformed with paint, wrapping paper, and colorful fabrics into the sparkliest castle ever! Laying on saturated colors and sprays of tiny stars with a lavish hand, Barnes depicts the two young “royals” in flamboyantly decorated settings—even Dad’s motorcycle is a dazzling confection awash in bows, and Dad himself, light-skinned like Sparkella, isn’t the least decorative element considering his fondness for sporting a purple boa and outrageous eyewear when occasion demands. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A second scintillating celebration of personal style and dad-daughter DIY. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-75076-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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