Whether their first or fourth outing with these winning sibs, kids will savor this supportive read.

CHARLIE & MOUSE OUTDOORS

The Geisel Award–winning sibling duo returns in their fourth adventure, this time in the great outdoors. 

Series fans will be thrilled to follow Charlie and Mouse’s first adventure beyond their neighborhood. This gently humorous story captures familiar elements of a family camping trip, starting with the boring car ride, moving on to an eventful (and sometimes scary!) hike, followed by playing inside the tent, and a fireside cuddle with Dad and Mom while munching on burned marshmallows. The cast here is reduced to just family members, but the siblings’ fantastic imaginations fill the void with creatures both real and make-believe. The strong sibling connection takes center stage in every chapter, with Charlie providing comfort and entertainment for his little brother using his expansive storytelling skills. Similarly, the dialogue and action focus on the boys, with parental reassurance and mild exasperation depicted mostly visually. Page layouts are composed deliberately, marrying words and pictures to support developing readers. The white space surrounding each line of text is ample, and illustrations, placed just so against the crisp white pages, provide contextual support. Word and sentence repetition is woven seamlessly into the narrative, allowing readers to gain confidence and mastery over new vocabulary, while Hughes’ soft-hued, detailed illustrations deftly navigate between real and imaginary worlds. Charlie and Mouse are biracial, with an Asian dad and white mom.

Whether their first or fourth outing with these winning sibs, kids will savor this supportive read. (Early reader. 6-9)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7066-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization.

A PLACE FOR PLUTO

If Pluto can’t be a planet—then what is he?

Having been a regular planet for “the better part of forever,” Pluto is understandably knocked out of orbit by his sudden exclusion. With Charon and his four other moons in tow he sets off in search of a new identity. Unfortunately, that only spins him into further gloom, as he doesn’t have a tail like his friend Halley’s comet, is too big to join Ida and the other asteroids, and feels disinclined to try to crash into Earth like meteoroids Gem and Persi. Then, just as he’s about to plunge into a black hole of despair, an encounter with a whole quartet of kindred spheroids led by Eris rocks his world…and a follow-up surprise party thrown by an apologetic Saturn (“Dwarf planet has a nice RING to it”) and the other seven former colleagues literally puts him “over the moon.” Demmer gives all the heavenly bodies big eyes (some, including the feminine Saturn, with long lashes) and, on occasion, short arms along with distinctive identifying colors or markings. Dressing the troublemaking meteoroids in do-rags and sunglasses sounds an off note. Without mentioning that the reclassification is still controversial, Wade closes with a (somewhat) straighter account of Pluto’s current official status and the reasons for it.

Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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