cover image Kate the Great, Except When She’s Not

Kate the Great, Except When She’s Not

Suzy Becker. Crown, $12.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-385-38742-2

In this illustrated diary-style novel, Becker (Everything I Need to Know I Learned from My Cat) fills her prose and accompanying line illustrations with entertaining observational comedy. Fifth-grade spitfire Kate Geller groans when her mother asks her to “show extra kindness” to a standoffish classmate, Nora, while Nora’s father is away on an extended business trip to Hong Kong. “Maybe he can take Nora with him,” Kate scoffs, above an image of Nora strapped to a jet. “Kate, that’s not funny,” her mother responds. “Translation: That is funny but it’s not nice.” Kate’s valiant, if disgruntled, efforts to befriend Nora lead to some humorous dilemmas, and Becker supplements Kate’s school-day tribulations with snippets of home life, enlivened by her warm, quick-witted parents (the family’s dinner conversations revolve around prompts and quotes pulled out of “Bob,” the “Big Ol’ Bowl” that sits on the table). Becker does an excellent job of channeling the behind-adults’-backs humor and friendship frustrations of the middle-school crowd, and Kate’s doodles provide extra sass to this promising series launch. Ages 8–12. Agent: Edite Kroll, Edite Kroll Literary Agency. (Aug.)