UNCLE DADDY

When Rivers was three, his father went out to get a pizza and never returned. Now in fourth grade, Rivers does a lot of fantasizing about what he’d do if his father came back—“I’d wind up and sock him as hard as I could, right in the stomach.” But when his fantasy becomes a reality, the situation stirs up far more ambiguous and confusing emotions than Rivers had anticipated. Since his father’s disappearance, his too-good-to-be-alive great uncle (whom he calls Uncle Daddy) has filled the role of dad in Rivers’s household. Despite the protagonist’s amusingly rendered, emotionally justified anger toward his biological father, it’s clear to the reader that Rivers does want to have a relationship with him, but is afraid this relationship will impinge upon the emotional connection he has with Uncle Daddy. Unwilling to trust the small, telling details of this tender tale, Fletcher conjures up a dramatic incident: Uncle Daddy suffers a near-fatal heart attack. This predictably forces River and his mother to depend on Rivers’s biological father, whose expertise in the building trades—he helps build Uncle Daddy a downstairs bedroom so that the family won’t have to constantly navigate the stairs—not only saves the day but shows off his newfound sense of responsibility as well. Despite this obvious gimmick, Fletcher is often insightful and his protagonist funny and winning. In this age of step and other nontraditional family groupings, the story should reassure youngsters that it’s okay to love two father figures at the same time. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8050-6663-2

Page Count: 140

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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THE LEMONADE WAR

From the Lemonade War series , Vol. 1

Told from the point of view of two warring siblings, this could have been an engaging first chapter book. Unfortunately, the length makes it less likely to appeal to the intended audience. Jessie and Evan are usually good friends as well as sister and brother. But the news that bright Jessie will be skipping a grade to join Evan’s fourth-grade class creates tension. Evan believes himself to be less than clever; Jessie’s emotional maturity doesn’t quite measure up to her intelligence. Rivalry and misunderstandings grow as the two compete to earn the most money in the waning days of summer. The plot rolls along smoothly and readers will be able to both follow the action and feel superior to both main characters as their motivations and misconceptions are clearly displayed. Indeed, a bit more subtlety in characterization might have strengthened the book’s appeal. The final resolution is not entirely believable, but the emphasis on cooperation and understanding is clear. Earnest and potentially successful, but just misses the mark. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 23, 2007

ISBN: 0-618-75043-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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Gentle, encouraging, witty fantasy that may soothe readers suffering from climate anxiety.

THE GOLDEN SWIFT

From the Silver Arrow series , Vol. 2

Children with magical talking steam trains are thrilled by their clever new plan to rescue endangered animals.

Eleven-year-old Kate absolutely adores her secret job—helping animals in need by using the magical locomotive that was a gift from her billionaire wizard uncle. Kate loves riding the Silver Arrow with Uncle Herbert; her brother, Tom; and the talking animals they escort to safe places. But now Uncle Herbert is missing, 9-year-old Tom seems more interested in hapkido than their supernatural train, and Kate’s struggling socially and academically thanks to her eco-anxiety. No matter how many animals she helps, no matter how many adults proclaim that climate change is a critical issue, the environment keeps getting worse. One night Kate discovers another train driving on the magical railroad: The Golden Swift is conducted by her classmate Jag, who thinks rescuing stranded creatures isn’t sufficiently radical. When Kate joins him, she feels more inspired and more righteous than ever before. This time, she’s actually making the world better! Kate’s unhappy discoveries of unintended consequences and the moral complexities of her activism are softened by humor. The snarky banter of the talking locomotive is an understated delight, as is the train constructed with, among others, candy and ice cream cars, an invisible car, and a dojo car. Kate and Tom are White; Jag is described as having dark skin and black hair and possibly being Indian. Charming illustrations enhance the text.

Gentle, encouraging, witty fantasy that may soothe readers suffering from climate anxiety. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-28354-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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