UNCLE DADDY

When Rivers was three, his father went out to get a pizza and never returned. Now in fourth grade, Rivers does a lot of fantasizing about what he’d do if his father came back—“I’d wind up and sock him as hard as I could, right in the stomach.” But when his fantasy becomes a reality, the situation stirs up far more ambiguous and confusing emotions than Rivers had anticipated. Since his father’s disappearance, his too-good-to-be-alive great uncle (whom he calls Uncle Daddy) has filled the role of dad in Rivers’s household. Despite the protagonist’s amusingly rendered, emotionally justified anger toward his biological father, it’s clear to the reader that Rivers does want to have a relationship with him, but is afraid this relationship will impinge upon the emotional connection he has with Uncle Daddy. Unwilling to trust the small, telling details of this tender tale, Fletcher conjures up a dramatic incident: Uncle Daddy suffers a near-fatal heart attack. This predictably forces River and his mother to depend on Rivers’s biological father, whose expertise in the building trades—he helps build Uncle Daddy a downstairs bedroom so that the family won’t have to constantly navigate the stairs—not only saves the day but shows off his newfound sense of responsibility as well. Despite this obvious gimmick, Fletcher is often insightful and his protagonist funny and winning. In this age of step and other nontraditional family groupings, the story should reassure youngsters that it’s okay to love two father figures at the same time. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8050-6663-2

Page Count: 140

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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THE LEMONADE WAR

From the Lemonade War series , Vol. 1

Told from the point of view of two warring siblings, this could have been an engaging first chapter book. Unfortunately, the length makes it less likely to appeal to the intended audience. Jessie and Evan are usually good friends as well as sister and brother. But the news that bright Jessie will be skipping a grade to join Evan’s fourth-grade class creates tension. Evan believes himself to be less than clever; Jessie’s emotional maturity doesn’t quite measure up to her intelligence. Rivalry and misunderstandings grow as the two compete to earn the most money in the waning days of summer. The plot rolls along smoothly and readers will be able to both follow the action and feel superior to both main characters as their motivations and misconceptions are clearly displayed. Indeed, a bit more subtlety in characterization might have strengthened the book’s appeal. The final resolution is not entirely believable, but the emphasis on cooperation and understanding is clear. Earnest and potentially successful, but just misses the mark. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 23, 2007

ISBN: 0-618-75043-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet!

WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE

From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 1

Ryan Hart is navigating the fourth grade and all its challenges with determination.

Her mom named her Ryan because it means “king,” and she wanted Ryan to feel powerful every time she heard her name; Ryan knows it means she is a leader. So when changes occur or disaster strikes, budding chef Ryan does her best to find the positive and “make sunshine.” When her dad is laid off from the post office, the family must make adjustments that include moving into a smaller house, selling their car, and changing how they shop for groceries. But Ryan gets to stay at Vernon Elementary, and her mom still finds a way to get her the ingredients she needs to practice new recipes. Her older brother, Ray, can be bossy, but he finds little ways to support her, especially when she is down—as does the whole family. Each episodic chapter confronts Ryan with a situation; intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching, they should be familiar and accessible to readers, as when Ryan fumbles her Easter speech despite careful practice. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and Watson continues to bring visibility to both Portland, Oregon, generally and its Black community specifically, making another wonderful contribution that allows Black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love.

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0056-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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