An empathetic look at hard problems, beautifully modulated for chapter-book readers.

LOVE FROM ANNA HIBISCUS

From the Anna Hibiscus series , Vol. 7

In typical gentle style, the seventh book in the Anna Hibiscus series provides a glimpse into the problems of an inequitable system.

Picking up where Go Well, Anna Hibiscus (2017) left off, the book finds Anna increasingly aware of the poverty and lack of opportunity experienced by her friends in her grandfather’s village in rural Africa: “if Tosin and Tolu and Beni are my own age, why are they all so much smaller than me?” When she realizes that it is because they eat only once a day, she is sad and determines to do more than be a friend. Anna is just a little girl, but the third part of her name, “Iyanu,” means “miracle.” In the most miraculous way, Anna, with the help of her cousins, tackles all these big problems. Her loving family also rescues her orphaned friend, Sunny Belafonte, from an impossible choice: stealing or starvation. All this is accomplished in four brief chapters using simple, direct language aligned to the abilities of newly independent chapter-book readers. Anna’s good deeds feel completely believable. After all, as Grandmother had told her, “Anything was possible. Schools. Medicine. Food. Families. Anything at all. It took money and time and knowledge. But mostly it took love.” Maybe it is that easy, if everyone shares Anna’s compassion and optimistic view.

An empathetic look at hard problems, beautifully modulated for chapter-book readers. (Fiction. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61067-680-9

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kane Miller

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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This story covers the few days preceding the much-anticipated Midnight Zombie Walk, when Stink and company will take to the...

STINK AND THE MIDNIGHT ZOMBIE WALK

From the Stink series

An all-zombie-all-the-time zombiefest, featuring a bunch of grade-school kids, including protagonist Stink and his happy comrades.

This story covers the few days preceding the much-anticipated Midnight Zombie Walk, when Stink and company will take to the streets in the time-honored stiff-armed, stiff-legged fashion. McDonald signals her intent on page one: “Stink and Webster were playing Attack of the Knitting Needle Zombies when Fred Zombie’s eye fell off and rolled across the floor.” The farce is as broad as the Atlantic, with enough spookiness just below the surface to provide the all-important shivers. Accompanied by Reynolds’ drawings—dozens of scene-setting gems with good, creepy living dead—McDonald shapes chapters around zombie motifs: making zombie costumes, eating zombie fare at school, reading zombie books each other to reach the one-million-minutes-of-reading challenge. When the zombie walk happens, it delivers solid zombie awfulness. McDonald’s feel-good tone is deeply encouraging for readers to get up and do this for themselves because it looks like so much darned fun, while the sub-message—that reading grows “strong hearts and minds,” as well as teeth and bones—is enough of a vital interest to the story line to be taken at face value.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5692-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.

BOOKMARKS ARE PEOPLE TOO!

From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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