A pleasant twist on a sturdy franchise.

DIARY OF AN AWESOME FRIENDLY KID

ROWLEY JEFFERSON'S JOURNAL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series

The wimpy kid’s best friend tells his side of the story.

After 13 volumes documenting events from Greg Heffley’s perspective, Rowley Jefferson takes a turn. The result is oddly refreshing: Greg’s unreliable narration gives readers plenty to chuckle at, but Rowley’s brutal honesty supplies fans of the series an unblinking look at their favorite protagonist. Greg’s jerk-y behavior that always lurked beneath the surface emerges fully here, coming dangerously close to ruining the character. Kinney uses this perspective shift to explore Greg’s behavior from the outside but through the eyes of his best friend, and that distinction is important. Rowley has cleareyed faith in his friend despite his father’s disapproval and nudges to make a better one. This faith is tested during a difficult sleepover and an exasperating study session but rewarded in the end. The Wimpy Kid books have never been heavy on plot, instead emphasizing character and gags. The gags in this volume are serviceable, but the character work is terrific. The fact that Kinney can expose new facets of his characters this deep into the series is a credit to the property. Underneath the marketing, the movies, the bookmarks, and the merchandise, the Wimpy Kid books are about a couple of pals figuring themselves out.

A pleasant twist on a sturdy franchise. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4027-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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