Nagda (Tiger Territory: A Story of the Chitwan Valley, 1999) offers middle readers a taste of the pleasures and rewards of helping others. The assignment: to write a letter from a mouse and send it to a penpal in second grade. Unlike her overachieving neighbor Susan, fourth grader Jenny has trouble thinking of things to write, and the exercise becomes even less appealing when her correspondent Sameera returns either perfunctory responses or none at all. After some gentle teacherly prodding, Jenny plods down the hall to meet Sameera, who turns out to be a shy, sullen new arrival from Saudi Arabia with only a few words of English. Soon, almost despite herself, Jenny is sharing favorite picture books with Sameera, writing more letters, and, after a flash of inspiration, sharing homemade mouse cookies—a ploy that not only breaks through Sameera’s reserve, but attracts the rest of the second graders too. Jenny earns a commendation from her own teacher, and to the envy of her classmates, an invitation to spend a period baking more cookies in the teachers’ lounge! Roth plants smiling, natural-looking people into everyday settings, perfectly capturing this episode’s relaxed, uncontrived atmosphere. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2000

ISBN: 0-8234-1495-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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This vibrant, thoughtful book from Katz (Over the Moon, 1997) continues her tribute to her adopted daughter, Lena, born in Guatemala. Lena is “seven. I am the color of cinnamon. Mom says she could eat me up”; she learns during a painting lesson that to get the color brown, she will have to “mix red, yellow, black, and white paints.” They go for a walk to observe the many shades of brown: they see Sonia, who is the color of creamy peanut butter; Isabella, who is chocolate brown; Lucy, both peachy and tan; Jo-Jin, the color of honey; Kyle, “like leaves in fall”; Mr. Pellegrino, the color of pizza crust, golden brown. Lena realizes that every shade is beautiful, then mixes her paints accordingly for portraits of her friends—“The colors of us!” Bold illustrations celebrate diversity with a child’s open-hearted sensibility and a mother’s love. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-5864-8

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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The way-off-road vehicle (The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field, 1997, etc.) tours the ears, eyes, nose, and skin when the assistant principal, Mr. Wilde, accidentally shrinks the school bus and the children on board, commandeering it to deliver a message to Ms. Frizzle. The vehicle plunges into the eye of a police officer, where the students explore the pupil, the cornea, the retina, and the optic nerve leading to the brain. Then it’s on to other senses, via the ear of a small child, the nose of a dog, and the tongue of the Friz herself. Sidebars and captions add to the blizzard of information here; with a combination of plot, details, and jokes, the trip is anything but dull. The facts will certainly entice readers to learn more about the ways living creatures perceive the world. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-44697-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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