A series of poems chronicles the summer two unnamed children spend on their grandparents’ farm, with particular emphasis on their animal friends.

Two-toned art appears every few pages, depicting farm and characters: grandparents and children (all white), Rexter the rooster, Seed-Sack the mule, Tuftin the cat, and newcomer Ginger-Tea, a dog to replace one that has died. While the text references no specific time period, an afterword informs readers “all this happened some time ago.” The joys of the farm are definitely those of yesteryear, and the illustrations complement them with a retro feel, providing warmth with oranges, golds, and browns. Chores exist, though they’re somewhat romanticized: Would a mule be able to carry two baskets of eggs in its teeth without breaking them? Nature provides a balance to the sweetness with a fox’s depredations to the henhouse. The poems don’t follow a singsong-y rhyme scheme but include some rhymes and near rhymes that are playfully memorable. “Gotta get the right doggone one,” says Grandpa in reference to a new dog, “or herding’ll be no doggone fun.” A quick read about a bygone way of life, the book is unlikely to have broad appeal, but thoughtful readers will respond to the wordplay as well as to the characterization of both humans and animals; Rexter’s and Seed-Sack’s personalities are particularly vivid throughout.

Charming. (Historical fiction/verse. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-55498-931-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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A multicultural title with obvious appeal for animal-loving middle graders.


When a Bengali boy finds and saves a tiger cub from a man who wants to sell her on the black market, he realizes that the schoolwork he resents could lead to a career protecting his beloved Sunderbans island home.

When the not-yet-weaned cub escapes from a nearby reserve, Neel and many of his neighbors join the search. But some are in the pay of greedy Gupta, a shady entrepreneur who’s recently settled in their community. Even Neel’s father is tempted by Gupta’s money, although he knows that Gupta doesn’t plan to take the cub back to the refuge. Neel and his sister use the boy’s extensive knowledge of the island’s swampy interior to find the cub’s hiding place and lure it out so it can be returned to its mother. The Kolkota-born author visited the remote Sunderbans in the course of her research. She lovingly depicts this beautiful tropical forest in the context of Neel’s efforts to find the cub and his reluctance to leave his familiar world. While the conflicts resolve a bit too easily, the sense of place is strong and the tiger cub’s rescue very satisfying. Pastel illustrations will help readers envision the story.

A multicultural title with obvious appeal for animal-loving middle graders. (author's note, organizations, glossary) (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-58089-660-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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


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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