Humor and humility mark Ty’s arc in his third outing.

FRIENDS OF A FEATHER

From the Life of Ty series , Vol. 3

Now that his best friend, Joseph, is out of the hospital and returning to school, second-grader Ty hopes things will be just as they used to be, but he finds that change is a normal part of life.

Excitement and trepidation govern Ty Perry’s mood in the first weeks at school when Joseph returns. Ty’s expectations that their relationship will resume uninterrupted are confounded when Joseph’s recovery induces much curiosity and attention from the rest of the class, leaving Ty confused, sometimes jealous and wondering if he can share his longtime friend. Focused on his own feelings and thoughts, Ty seems to ignore Joseph’s reticence about his return and what he missed at school. An incident at a nursing home where Ty is visiting with his mother and the rescue of an injured wild bird force Ty to approach life more realistically, learn about responsibility, and in the end, appreciate and understand Joseph better. Ty is a somewhat self-centered 7-year-old; while this is developmentally appropriate, it also makes him hard to relate to, unlike such chapter-book age-mates as Stephanie Greene’s Owen Foote and Lenore Look’s Alvin Ho. Given his solipsism, his insightful revelation at the end—“Things change and life goes on and it’s not always easy”—is quite the mature conclusion.

Humor and humility mark Ty’s arc in his third outing. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-525-42288-4

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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