THE BASQUE DRAGON

From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 2

Elliot and Uchenna, now full-fledged members of the Unicorn Rescue Society, are back for a second adventure following series opener The Creature of the Pines (2018).

Opening the day after the previous book ends, Elliot finds a mysterious package awaiting him on his front step. He is afraid that the package, containing a book called The Country of Basque, portends another strange day—and he’s right. He and his friend Uchenna are whisked away by Professor Fauna in his unreliable single-propeller plane to the Basque Country. Even if readers can suspend disbelief long enough to believe that a single-prop plane with three passengers (and a small Jersey Devil) could safely cross the Atlantic, they may still wonder, as Elliot does, about the wisdom of flying off with a weird teacher, especially without informing anyone of their whereabouts. In the Basque Country, they meet fellow Society member Mixtel Mendizabal. Mixtel explains how he took up the mantle of caring for a dragon that has been kidnapped by—no surprise—the rich, greedy Schmoke brothers, villains of the first book. Gidwitz and Casey sprinkle in some substance by examining the difference between isolation and independence and, refreshingly, questioning and rejecting gender norms through Uchenna’s character. However, the lack of character development and the combination of unrealistic and predictable elements of this second offering may leave readers cold. Elliot is white, Uchenna is black, and Professor Fauna is Peruvian.

Not fantastic. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3173-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.

HORRIBLE HARRY SAYS GOODBYE

From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A long-running series reaches its closing chapters.

Having, as Kline notes in her warm valedictory acknowledgements, taken 30 years to get through second and third grade, Harry Spooger is overdue to move on—but not just into fourth grade, it turns out, as his family is moving to another town as soon as the school year ends. The news leaves his best friend, narrator “Dougo,” devastated…particularly as Harry doesn’t seem all that fussed about it. With series fans in mind, the author takes Harry through a sort of last-day-of-school farewell tour. From his desk he pulls a burned hot dog and other items that featured in past episodes, says goodbye to Song Lee and other classmates, and even (for the first time ever) leads Doug and readers into his house and memento-strewn room for further reminiscing. Of course, Harry isn’t as blasé about the move as he pretends, and eyes aren’t exactly dry when he departs. But hardly is he out of sight before Doug is meeting Mohammad, a new neighbor from Syria who (along with further diversifying a cast that began as mostly white but has become increasingly multiethnic over the years) will also be starting fourth grade at summer’s end, and planning a written account of his “horrible” buddy’s exploits. Finished illustrations not seen.

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47963-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic.

STICKS AND STONES

Veteran picture-book creator Polacco tells another story from her childhood that celebrates the importance of staying true to one’s own interests and values.

After years of spending summers with her father and grandmother, narrator Trisha is excited to be spending the school year in Michigan with them. Unexpectedly abandoned by her summertime friends, Trisha quickly connects with fellow outsiders Thom and Ravanne, who may be familiar to readers from Polacco’s The Junkyard Wonders (2010). Throughout the school year, the three enjoy activities together and do their best to avoid school bully Billy. While a physical confrontation between Thom (aka “Sissy Boy”) and Billy does come, so does an opportunity for Thom to defy convention and share his talent with the community. Loosely sketched watercolor illustrations place the story in the middle of the last century, with somewhat old-fashioned clothing and an apparently all-White community. Trisha and her classmates appear to be what today would be called middle schoolers; a reference to something Trisha and her mom did when she was “only eight” suggests that several years have passed since that time. As usual, the lengthy first-person narrative is cozily conversational but includes some challenging vocabulary (textiles, lackeys, foretold). The author’s note provides a brief update about her friends’ careers and encourages readers to embrace their own differences. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2622-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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