THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS

Paterson's bright eleven-year-old has a lot in common with: other foster children we've met in fiction: sulky, surface-tough, perversely set on being "hard to manage," determined after several rejections never to accept an overture, and still cherishing the fantasy that her real mother will come to her rescue. But Gilly's new foster mother, Maime Trotter—a semi-literate, Bible-reading hippopotamus of a woman—is hard to rile, and her new teacher is a study in cool. Mrs. Trotter even takes her back after Gilly, planning secretly to join her real mother in California, steals money for a bus ticket. Then a letter claiming mistreatment that Gilly had sent to her mother backfires ironically and it's her unglamorous grandmother (previously unaware of Gilly's existence) who comes for her, just as Gilly has begun to feel a part of Mrs. Trotter's loving de facto family. Meeting the long-idealized real mother at last is the worst blow of all, but by then Trotter's effect on Gilly is hearteningly evident—not only in the little girl's unprompted "I love you Trotter" on the telephone, but also in her considerate self-restraint as her well-meaning Grandmother bugs her with nervous chatter. Without a hint of the prevailing maudlin realism, Paterson takes up a common "problem" situation and makes it genuinely moving, frequently funny, and sparkling with memorable encounters.

Pub Date: March 1, 1978

ISBN: 0064402010

Page Count: 195

Publisher: T.Y. Crowell

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1978

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Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S VALENTINE

Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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