BEN, KING OF THE RIVER

Continuing this publisher's efforts to offer well-written stories about special problems, Chad, who appears to be about nine, describes a family camping trip that includes his five-year-old brother Ben, who is developmentally disabled. Gifaldi (Rearranging, 1998, etc.) doesn't gloss over problems; for example, other kids at the campsite tease and stare at Ben, who screams and cries when encountering a new experience, like dragonflies. His many problems affect Chad's life, too: he can't have a pet, for instance. Ben can be a nuisance, but he is also quick to hug and show affection, and here he is shown in the context of a lovely and supportive family. The author provides an afterword by his own 13-year-old nephew, who discusses living with his brother. The title concludes with tips for living with a disabled sibling and a Web site support group for siblings. The watercolor illustrations are merely competent, but have an awkward charm, especially when focusing on the faces of Ben and Chad appearing joyful, sulky, angry, or fearful. A useful title for discussion with general as well as special populations. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8075-0635-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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Italics and exclamation points may be overused, but this new humorous series is full of gently amusing magical surprises.

THE SUPER-SPOOKY FRIGHT NIGHT!

From the Hubble Bubble series , Vol. 1

Shades of Bewitched, the old TV show featuring a witch married to a regular guy.

This new chapter-book series stars Pandora, a white girl with two grandmas—the good witch, Granny Crow, in a patterned minidress, whose magical powers enliven any party or school outing, and Granny Podmore, in her cardigan and plaid skirt, a kind but stereotypical grandmother who cleans and cooks. Pandora’s friends include Nellie, a black girl, and Nellie’s mom is also depicted as black in the exuberant line drawings with gray washes. The three chapterlong adventures are rather tame, meant for readers who want fun rather than fright. In “The Super-Spooky Fright Night!” (all titles have exclamation points), the two grandmothers host a Halloween party. Granny Crow creates “bat-shaped cookies that hung around the bowls, and a custard cat (that actually meowed!).” Granny Podmore makes “the neatest swans” from napkins. Granny Crow conjures up musical broomsticks when Granny Podmore wants to introduce musical chairs. The evening ends happily when Granny Podmore uses Ollie, her vacuum cleaner, to suck up little pumpkins from Granny Crow’s pumpkin pop gone wild. Only Granny Crow appears in the other stories, making teddy bears come alive to give a “teddy bears’ picnic!” and causing a nasty teacher to accidentally cast a spell that turns a school swimming lesson into utter chaos.

Italics and exclamation points may be overused, but this new humorous series is full of gently amusing magical surprises. (Fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8653-6

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Nosy Crow/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A visually striking, compelling recollection.

FROM THE TOPS OF THE TREES

The author recounts a formative childhood experience that continues to inspire her today.

Born to Hmong refugees, Kalia has only ever known the confines of the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand. Even while playing with her cousins, reminders of the hardships of their life are always present. She overhears the aunties sharing their uncertainty and fear of the future. They are a people with no home country and are still trying to find peace. Kalia asks her father why they live behind a gate and wonders what lies beyond the fences that surround the camp. The next day they climb a tall tree, and he shows her the vast expanse around them, from familiar camp landmarks to distant mountains “where the sky meets earth.” This story of resilience and generational hope is told in an expressive, straightforward narrative style. The simplicity of the text adds a level of poignancy that moves readers to reflection. The layered and heavily textured illustrations complement the text while highlighting the humanity of the refugees and providing a quiet dignity to camp life. The militarylike color palette of olive greens, golden yellows, and rich browns reinforces the guarded atmosphere but also represents the transitional period from winter to spring, a time ripe with anticipation and promise.

A visually striking, compelling recollection. (author's note, glossary, map.) (Picture book/memoir. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8130-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Hopefully future installments will carry some substance.

THE TRIPLETS GET CHARMED

From the Trillium Sisters series , Vol. 1

An origin story for mysterious, magical triplets.

Eight-year-old triplets Emmy, Clare, and Giselle celebrate Founding Day—the day their veterinarian father, Dr. J.A., found them—instead of a birthday. Each girl has a baby animal pet (bear cub Claw, wolf pup Fluffy, and eaglet Soar), feels a special connection to trillium flowers for their three petals, and is indistinguishable from her sisters aside from occasional telling-not-showing characterization and illustrations that render Giselle as a girl of color while the rest of the family presents White. On their eighth Founding Day, their father, upset to see that the trillium patch where he first found his daughters has been uprooted, diverges from their traditions to replant the flowers and to reveal that there’s more to the original Founding Day story than he’s told them. Back then, a large trillium flower glowed before bursting into sparkles and leaving trillium petal charms behind that Dr. J.A. now gives to the girls. Later, when Emmy and their younger brother, Zee, go to pick strawberries, Zee falls into a river. The triplets work together to try to save him, but it isn’t enough until the charms activate, giving the girls superpowers and new outfits, and making their pets huge. Although the woodsy setting (especially their treehouse home) and animals charm, the blandness of both characters and plot falls short of magical. In the simultaneously releasing sequel, Bestie Day, freed from the burden of expository backstory, the plot (a White bully and her subservient, Asian-presenting best friend endanger bees by cutting too many wildflowers) gets moving faster but offers only marginal improvements.

Hopefully future installments will carry some substance. (Fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64595-014-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Pixel+Ink

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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