cover image Molly's in a Mess

Molly's in a Mess

Suzy Kline, Author, Diana Cain Bluthenthal, Illustrator Putnam Publishing Group $14.99 (71p) ISBN 978-0-399-23131-5

Kline's (the Herbie Jones series) latest beginning chapter book exhibits her usual flair for elementary school antics. The first, rather plodding chapter seems to serve only as an opportunity for narrator Morty Hill to introduce his fiercely loyal and unpredictable best friend, Molly Zander. But as soon as the second chapter begins, with Morty's testimonial on how well his pal can keep a secret, the story is off and running. Kline plants clues that factor into the story later, including the pair's mutual love of sports, and Molly's fatal flaw: when ""she's not telling the whole truth, her eyes get bigger."" Florence, a new girl in class, has a few things to learn about how to treat her peers--some of which she inadvertently passes on to Molly, too. If the characters never get too deep, Kline's light touch makes the lessons all the easier to swallow. However, she occasionally strains readers' willingness to suspend disbelief: Morty, undetected by an adult, peers through the girls' bathroom door and overhears Molly's uncharacteristically adult apology to Florence (""I didn't apologize for laughing at you because I wasn't sorry at the time. But I feel like it now. You're a nice person, and I embarrassed you in front of everyone. I'm sorry""). Bluthenthal's cartoonish illustrations focus on the humor and keep things frolicsome. Ages 6-9. (Aug.)