An upbeat celebration of lively imagination, friendship, family, community, and the exuberance of childhood.

ONE AWESOME THING

From the Waylon! series , Vol. 1

Fourth-grader Waylon Zakowski is struggling to navigate change.

Most immediately, he needs to figure out how to deal with charismatic Arlo, who seems determined to splinter the formerly cohesive class into “things.” To further complicate his life, his 14-year-old sister, Charlotte, is now calling herself Neon and has gone goth. His parents seem unable to confront her, leaving him to fill the new gap in his previously loving family. Waylon is a scientist with a lot of bright but unusual ideas. As he carefully considers—as a good scientist must—the mostly wonderful world around him, he develops insights: he must become an isthmus, standing in the middle to keep the peace in school and at home. His point of view is nicely captured through his thoughtful third-person voice—authentically peppered with scientific trivia—and Frazee’s frequent drawings (only a few of which were available for review). Unexpected bits of magic add depth and an aching tenderness, as when Neon steals into Waylon’s room to play a game called OAT—One Awesome Thing—to help support her discouraged brother, later revealing that she hasn’t really changed so much. Waylon is a blond white boy, Arlo is a dreadlocked dark-skinned boy, and judging by the names, their fourth-grade Boston-area class is a diverse one.

An upbeat celebration of lively imagination, friendship, family, community, and the exuberance of childhood. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4847-0152-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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Another uproarious romp that explores what it is to be good as well as do good.

THE BAD GUYS IN MISSION UNPLUCKABLE

From the Bad Guys series , Vol. 2

The foursome of reformed villains returns with a new mission and new team member in a continued effort to repair their reputations in Blabey's (The Bad Guys, 2017) rollicking sequel.

This second installment opens with our would-be heroes, Mr. Wolf, Mr. Snake, Mr. Shark, and Mr. Piranha, fresh from their bold liberation of the local pound, finding that the media is not spinning in their favor. Accused of terrorizing rather than rescuing, the group (at least Mr. Wolf) refuses to admit defeat—"We're the GOOD GUYS here!"—and begins planning a new mission to free innocent chickens from their deplorable confinement in the Sunnyside Chicken Farm. But if the team can't work together—something all the more difficult with the team a little panicked by the addition of Legs (a friendly, tech-genius tarantula) and one of the group suspiciously excited to greet the chickens—a rescue mission may be all but impossible. Despite some language devaluing of mental diversity (“freak out,” “loco,” etc.) that may turn some readers off, Blabey once again deploys moral ambiguity to overall success, challenging fear as a justification for prejudice and mistakes as reasons to give up. The narrative has lost no comic momentum from first to second book, juxtaposing classic riffs on Mission Impossible and new visual gags unique to these delightfully wry characters.

Another uproarious romp that explores what it is to be good as well as do good. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-91241-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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