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Monday, May 4, 2015

Cody and the Fountain of Happiness, written by Tricia Springstubb and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2015. $17.00 ages 7 and up

"In this life, many things are
100% on your spelling test
Turtles, with their cute
thumb-shaped heads
But if Cody had to name the
most beautiful thing in the world,
it would be ...
The first day of summer vacation.
Which was today."

Summer vacation is upon her. Her camp has been cancelled. Cody is prepared for a summer of wonder, despite the fact that her brother Wyatt is in charge at home while their parents work. Wyatt is a teenager, more interested in sleep and his crush on Payton Underwood than what his little sister is doing in her spare time.

His indifference allows Cody to try to find something worthwhile to do with her time. It doesn't take much for this feisty, inquisitive and caring young girl to find ways to fill her days. First, there is Spencer, a lonely young boy, visiting his grandmother for the summer while his parents are away. MewMew is his grandmother's deaf cat. It is MewMew who brings them together, and helps establish a friendship between the two. Cody wants to use her powers of hypnotism on the cat, and on Payton. The results are not exactly stellar.

"Probably that's why they didn't take me on their
trip. Because I'd get in their way.:
Very gently, Cody started the swing swinging.
First Mom and her cigarettes.
Then the ants.
The baby skunk.
Spencer's worn-out pj's.
In this life, so many things can twang your heart.
If only she and Spencer had feelers, she'd have
touched his right now."

Cody is a terrific character. She loves and communicates with ants, cares about others, wants what is best for them, and gets herself into some hot water in her attempts to 'help'. She will be loved by those who enjoy the stories of Marty McGuire, Clementine, Lulu, Ivy and Bean. She stands alone just as they do; yet, they have similar appeal. Their stories offer a perfect read for children wanting to read chapter books independently. Cody's strength and sensitivity is balanced by her fertile imagination. This new, exemplary character is sure to find fans who hope, as I do, that this is not the last time we will hear news of Cody and her exploits.

Eliza Wheeler's black-and-white illustrations give context for those needing the extra help from visual text. They help make this new book a very satisfying read.

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