Though the writing is clever and there are plenty of amusing incidents included, life lessons and existential truths...

CONFESSIONS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND

A MEMOIR BY JACQUES PAPIER

An imaginary friend who yearns to be real learns about life along with the children who conjure him up in a variety of guises.

Cuevas’ episodic story features childlike black-and-white drawings that contrast oddly with the decidedly adult tone of her main character’s musings. Jacques Papier is ostensibly 8 years old when he discovers that he is merely a figment of his “twin sister” Fleur’s imagination. When her parents take her to a psychiatrist, Jacques is stuck in the waiting room, where he meets Mr. Pitiful, Stinky Sock, and a variety of other oddball characters who invite him to the next meeting of Imaginaries Anonymous. With information gleaned there, he sets out on a series of new incarnations, from prisoner/co-conspirator/damsel in distress through perfect pet to best friend and magician’s assistant. New placements are made by the “reassignment office.” The description of this hilariously inefficient bureaucracy would make most adults chuckle knowingly, but it seems unlikely that young readers will get the joke. Between assignments, Jacques exists in a dark limbo, remembering bits and pieces of his previous lives and wondering about the nature of reality.

Though the writing is clever and there are plenty of amusing incidents included, life lessons and existential truths overwhelm everything, suggesting that the audience for this uneasy amalgam of whimsy and wisdom will be small. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-5254-2755-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet!

WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE

From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 1

Ryan Hart is navigating the fourth grade and all its challenges with determination.

Her mom named her Ryan because it means “king,” and she wanted Ryan to feel powerful every time she heard her name; Ryan knows it means she is a leader. So when changes occur or disaster strikes, budding chef Ryan does her best to find the positive and “make sunshine.” When her dad is laid off from the post office, the family must make adjustments that include moving into a smaller house, selling their car, and changing how they shop for groceries. But Ryan gets to stay at Vernon Elementary, and her mom still finds a way to get her the ingredients she needs to practice new recipes. Her older brother, Ray, can be bossy, but he finds little ways to support her, especially when she is down—as does the whole family. Each episodic chapter confronts Ryan with a situation; intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching, they should be familiar and accessible to readers, as when Ryan fumbles her Easter speech despite careful practice. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and Watson continues to bring visibility to both Portland, Oregon, generally and its Black community specifically, making another wonderful contribution that allows Black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love.

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0056-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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