A rare misstep from a first-rate author.


Twins Nora and Ben uncover a family secret: Their little sister, Birdy, was adopted.

The White family’s ancestry is European: Mother, a newspaper columnist, is Irish; Father, an art professor, is Italian. When Mother administers a home DNA test for her column about ancestry, Birdy copies her, preparing a test for herself using the kit Father rejects. When the results come back, the twins realize Birdy substituted her sample for Mother’s and that Birdy’s ancestry is Swedish. Confused, the twins confide in a former teacher who asks them if it matters. They decide it doesn’t but continue to probe the mystery; meanwhile, Mother makes weekly trips to place flowers on her best friend’s grave. The tale unfolds gently, with MacLachlan’s signature grace and luminous simplicity, but the complex subject—poised where nature and nurture intersect—both calls for and deserves more nuanced treatment than plot or format allow. Even though Birdy’s atypical adoption sidesteps difficult issues, young readers may wonder why Birdy’s birth mother made her choice and why her birth father’s unknown. Overall, the story has a comfortably old-fashioned sensibility, but the depiction of adoption, understandably simplified, is also outdated, conflating problematic adoption secrecy with secrets trivial and benign. Beyond outing family secrets, DNA testing has given parentage and ancestry renewed prominence in how we identify ourselves. The message that, in a loving family, being adopted “doesn’t matter,” while well-intentioned, is misleading.

A rare misstep from a first-rate author. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-288585-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.


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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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