A welcome series addition that emphasizes familiarity instead of difference and treats its message with an affectionately...

SKATEBOARD PARTY

From the Carver Chronicles series , Vol. 2

Richard dreams of landing the perfect flat-ground Ollie, but before he can attempt the daring skateboard feat, he must recover from an earlier trick that he played on his parents by concealing a teacher’s note informing his parents of lackluster effort.

Ms. Shelby-Ortiz knows that Richard can do better, but Richard just doesn’t want to think about it, so he leaves her note buried in his backpack. Eventually, of course, the truth comes out, and there are consequences, chief among them missing the birthday party where he plans to show off his trick. English’s longtime collaborator Freeman (the companion Nikki & Deja series) contributes illustrations throughout, often representing critical moments in the story. One memorably depicts Richard struggling with the spelling of q-u-o-t-i-e-n-t in a crucial spelling test in which perfection stands between him and the skate park. While it’s clear from the illustrations that Richard and his family are African-American, the text is largely free of cultural signifiers. The story reads much more like an all-American tale of a growing family amid middle-class suburban life than it does of a black middle-class family raising four black boys in the suburbs—an approach that broadens the spectrum of books aimed at young urban boys of color. Readers won’t find clear racial depictions, but they’ll still giggle at the familial mischief.

A welcome series addition that emphasizes familiarity instead of difference and treats its message with an affectionately light hand . (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-28306-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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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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Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization.

A PLACE FOR PLUTO

If Pluto can’t be a planet—then what is he?

Having been a regular planet for “the better part of forever,” Pluto is understandably knocked out of orbit by his sudden exclusion. With Charon and his four other moons in tow he sets off in search of a new identity. Unfortunately, that only spins him into further gloom, as he doesn’t have a tail like his friend Halley’s comet, is too big to join Ida and the other asteroids, and feels disinclined to try to crash into Earth like meteoroids Gem and Persi. Then, just as he’s about to plunge into a black hole of despair, an encounter with a whole quartet of kindred spheroids led by Eris rocks his world…and a follow-up surprise party thrown by an apologetic Saturn (“Dwarf planet has a nice RING to it”) and the other seven former colleagues literally puts him “over the moon.” Demmer gives all the heavenly bodies big eyes (some, including the feminine Saturn, with long lashes) and, on occasion, short arms along with distinctive identifying colors or markings. Dressing the troublemaking meteoroids in do-rags and sunglasses sounds an off note. Without mentioning that the reclassification is still controversial, Wade closes with a (somewhat) straighter account of Pluto’s current official status and the reasons for it.

Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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