MAX AND JAX IN SECOND GRADE

Max and Jax are an amiable pair of second graders—incredibly amiable, considering that they are twin alligators. Nolen’s (Big Jabe, 2000, etc.) newest characters in this early reader are endeavoring their best to start their summer vacations off on the right foot. Jax has her friends all lined up for a big sleepover, and Max has got a fishing trip arranged with his dad. Max likes nothing more than fishing, even though everyone out-fishes him ten to one. He has sent away for a special lure—“guaranteed to work”—for his trip with his dad, but his sister makes him some of her special fishing bait just in case. (Recipe on the back cover for the stout-of-heart.) Now, that’s sisterly. Sure enough, the guaranteed lure fails to produce, but the special bait does the trick. Max—along with his dad’s encouragement—decides to bring the big rainbow trout home to Jax. The big fish disgusts her friends, but it’s Jax’s favorite treat. Schmidt’s (What Do You Love?, 2000, etc.) watercolor art, though accomplished, may be a shade puerile for early readers, but Nolen’s twins have plenty to offer, such as an example of harmony in the household, and the real gift: generosity. (Easy reader. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-15-201668-6

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Silver Whistle/Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2002

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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TEA WITH MILK

In describing how his parents met, Say continues to explore the ways that differing cultures can harmonize; raised near San Francisco and known as May everywhere except at home, where she is Masako, the child who will grow up to be Say’s mother becomes a misfit when her family moves back to Japan. Rebelling against attempts to force her into the mold of a traditional Japanese woman, she leaves for Osaka, finds work as a department store translator, and meets Joseph, a Chinese businessman who not only speaks English, but prefers tea with milk and sugar, and persuades her that “home isn’t a place or a building that’s ready-made or waiting for you, in America or anywhere else.” Painted with characteristic control and restraint, Say’s illustrations, largely portraits, begin with a sepia view of a sullen child in a kimono, gradually take on distinct, subdued color, and end with a formal shot of the smiling young couple in Western dress. A stately cousin to Ina R. Friedman’s How My Parents Learned To Eat (1984), also illustrated by Say. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-90495-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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