From the Stitch Head series , Vol. 3

Silly thrills about the power of self and friendship.

Stitch Head, a being cooked up in a laboratory by a mad scientist, continues his journey out of the shadows of Castle Grotteskew.

While reluctantly rehearsing with the castle’s drama society under the direction of the Creature (another of Mad Professor Erasmus’ creations), Stitch Head is startled by a disembodied voice only he can hear, calling his name. While searching for the voice’s source, Stitch Head is startled when a human face appears from the shadows, demanding Stitch Head give an unknown thing back. Hearing the description of the ghost, the usually brave Arabella (a human girl) tells Stitch Head he must leave the castle to escape the horrifying ghost of Mawley Crackbone. Upon speaking Mawley’s name, Stitch Head is pulled through the walls into unknown depths of the castle. Mawley reveals that he is the source of Stitch Head’s heart. The protagonist’s fragile sense of self is shaken when he questions if the heart of a wicked man means he is wicked. A quick pace is set from the prologue, where readers learn that Mawley was murdered to end his evil reign over the village of Grubbers Nubbin, and doesn’t let up until the end. Stitch Head’s emotional growth continues as he confronts strong feelings, helped by his friends. These more poignant scenes are balanced with moments of humor and whimsy: the Creature’s melodramatic speech patterns, the play the castle residents are staging, and detailed black-and-white illustrations of Grotteskew’s strange inhabitants. Human characters are generally pale-skinned.

Silly thrills about the power of self and friendship. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2023

ISBN: 9781664340688

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023


From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

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

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. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018


Young readers will recognize Suds as one of their own and will gladly follow him to fourth grade. Sweet and funny.

Suds Morton is not yet a “Fourth Grade Rat.” In this prequel to Spinelli's 1991 standby, he is a year younger and, according to his school’s traditional chant, he aspires to the sobriquet of “Third Grade Angel.”

When his teacher announces her intention of rewarding angelic behavior with a halo, Suds decides he wants to be the first angel. Between his cool new friend Joey, his wise mom and a little conclusion-jumping, he comes up with a plan. But, of course, his results are just a little off-kilter. Suds, nicknamed for his preference for calming soaks in bubble baths when he gets “chipmunky,” needs all the help he can get to deal with the various disasters and tribulations that threaten to overwhelm him. Along with the angel chase there’s a pesky little sister, a fifth-grade bully and total rejection by the girl he adores. Spinelli doesn’t miss a beat in recreating the characters from the earlier work and never reveals any hint of Suds’ fourth-grade future. He lets readers into Suds’ 8-year-old mind without condescension. His problems and concerns are treated comically but with genuine kindness. Suds is innocent, gullible and trusting; he is also entirely good-hearted.

Young readers will recognize Suds as one of their own and will gladly follow him to fourth grade. Sweet and funny. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-38772-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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