For fans of Google, trivia, and family strength.

THE GREAT GOOGLINI

From the Orca Echoes series

A young Canadian boy copes with the news that his uncle has cancer in Cassidy’s early chapter book.

Filip Horvat, the son of two Croatian immigrants, is about to complete his “tenth orbit around the sun.” An avid collector of facts, Filip, along with his best friend, Ivan, spends hours on Google looking up everything he can. When the news that his beloved uncle has been diagnosed with cancer comes on the heels of his birthday party, however, Filip’s mind reels with worry and questions. As any researcher worth their salt would, Filip turns to Google, and after finding out some information about what cancer is and how it is treated, he asks the question that is foremost in his mind: “Will Uncle Mato be alright?” A moment later, the Great Googlini—a tiny woman of color who is one of the information scientists inside Google who answer all the questions people ask—appears in a puff of computer smoke to answer him. Cassidy has crafted a thoughtful glimpse into the life of an immigrant family, and despite the refreshingly straightforward look at cancer and the struggle of having a loved one undergo treatment, the narrative retains its slice-of-life focus. Chua’s spot art depicts Filip, his family, and Ivan as white, gives some visual depth to various scenes, and helps nascent chapter-book readers with comprehension and pacing.

For fans of Google, trivia, and family strength. (Fantasy. 6-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1703-6

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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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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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