A perennial message, “different strokes for different folks,” delivered with affection and tolerance, 21st-century style.

CODY AND THE MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE

Cody’s impatient for Spencer Pickett’s family to move in with his grandma, GG; as readers of the series’ first installment know, waiting isn’t Cody’s strong suit.

On the Picketts’ arrival, surprises ensue (Spencer plays the violin) as well as mysteries: GG’s duplex unit is full of Picketts (Spencer’s parents are launching a business), but apart from the name “Meen” on the mailbox, the adjacent unit looks empty. When ant-fancier Cody’s stung by a yellow jacket, Mr. Meen appears with a remedy—he’s an exterminator! Unlike their dad, the Meen girls aren’t friendly, and Molly forbids Cody and Spencer to play in the backyard. Cody tries to mentor Spencer, who’s younger, but the teacher she warned him about (the Spindle) likes him—Cody finds them listening to Mozart during recess. Cody’s classmate Pearl makes origami animals for Spencer and plays piano; soon they’re rehearsing for a concert. Do they like each other better than they like Cody? Are the Meen girls bullies or friend material? Her big brother is there for Cody, when not romantically preoccupied, but her restless, inventive mind and kind heart are her best resources. The African-American Picketts are middle-class, while, like the Meens, Cody’s family is more blue-collar (Dad drives a truck; Mom works in retail) and white. Asian-American Pearl, with her origami and music, hews rather too closely to stereotype. Understated illustrations subtly reinforce these diverse identities and bring the cozy world to life.

A perennial message, “different strokes for different folks,” delivered with affection and tolerance, 21st-century style. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5858-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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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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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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