March 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Chapter Books Xpress Reviews | October 2016

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Xpress Reviews:

Humphrey, Anna. Clara Humble and the Not-So-Super Powers. illus. by Lisa Cinar. 224p. Owlkids/Maple Tree. Sept. 2016. Tr $13.95. ISBN 9781771471473.

Gr 3-5 –Gledhill Elementary School student Clara Humble is convinced she has superpowers; unfortunately, these capabilities, ranging from the ability to spill liquids to being able to wake up every morning at exactly 7:14 a.m. without an alarm clock, are not exactly extraordinary. When Clara’s favorite neighbor Momo plans to move to a retirement home and the students from a rival school that has been temporarily closed because of mold start attending Gledhill, the title character and her friend Bradley devise a plan to use Clara’s supposed newfound powers to try to stop both from happening. Humphrey succeeds in establishing a likable heroine, a spunky comic book fan with a wild imagination. Cinar’s comical drawings featuring @Cat, a superhero created by Clara, work well with the book’s motif. Some children may be disappointed to learn that Clara doesn’t really have any superpowers, but most will appreciate the story’s humor and fast-paced writing, both of which make this an appealing choice for reluctant readers. Although Clara doesn’t achieve either of her goals by the end of the novel (Momo is still moving, and the rival students remain at Gledhill), she does learn that true heroism comes from good deeds rather than special abilities. VERDICT A solid start to a new series. Clara Humble proves she doesn’t need superpowers to win over young readers.–Laura J. Giunta, Garden City Public Library, NY

redstarKrishnaswami, Uma. Book Uncle and Me. illus. by Julianna Swaney. 152p. Groundwood. Sept. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781554988082; ebk. $12.95. ISBN 9781554988105.

Gr 2-4 –Nine-year-old Yasmin is a self described book-a-day reader. Every day after school she likes to stop by Book Uncle’s lending library on the corner by her apartment complex. Book Uncle has been on the corner as long as Yasmin can remember, and his motto of Right book for the right person for the right dayhasn’t steered her wrong yet, though she finds herself second-guessing his latest recommendation, which seems too easy. Yasmin has a misunderstanding with her friends Reeni and Anil, who do not seem to understand her love for reading and her questions about this particular story. Meanwhile, the local mayoral election has everyone in the city excited—partly because a famous actor is running. When Yasmin goes back to see Book Uncle, she is perplexed to find him boxing up all of his wares. It seems that he has been issued a summons and told he needs a permit in order to keep operating his lending library. Unfortunately, he cannot afford a permit. What follows is Yasmin’s social awakening. The neighbors she has noticed only in passing before become allies in her grassroots effort to get Book Uncle back in business. VERDICT This sweet slice-of-life tale not only highlights Yasmin’s neighborhood and life in India but also demonstrates that children can be empowered to effect change in their own neighborhoods. This is also a perfect title to shine a light on elections taking place elsewhere.–Stacy Dillon, LREI, New York City

Lewis, Gill. Scout and the Sausage Thief. illus. by Sarah Horne. 128p. ebook available. photos. Holt. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781627797948; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781627798020.

Gr 2-4 –Scout, a German shepherd, wants to be a police dog, just like his mom and dad. They are working on a big case, trying to catch Frank Furter, an ex–police dog who turned to a life of stealing sausages. But on her way to Puppy Academy to test for her Care in the Community badge, Scout finds several sources of distraction, including the owner of a lost teddy bear and a mud puddle. She is then accused of stealing the bag of Crunchie Munchies she was tasked with guarding. Even with the threat of dismissal from Puppy Academy looming, Scout continues her hunt for Frank Furter and saves a large family of mice. Predictably, the story ends well. Entertaining black ink illustrations appear on most spreads, helping to move the narrative along and provide depictions of the emotions expressed by this mostly animal cast. Photos and facts about real police dogs at the end of the book bring an informational element to this fictional tale. VERDICT Fans of animal heroes and K-9 underdogs may enjoy Scout’s lighthearted misadventures.–Lindsay Persohn, University of South Florida, Tampa

This article was published in School Library Journal's October 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.