Holly's world expands and moving into a new neighborhood with her mother and stepfather is just the beginning in The Trouble with Babies, the follow-up to The Trouble with Cats by Martha Freeman, illus. by Cat Bowman Smith.
In this sequel to The Trouble with Cats, Martha Freeman continues the saga of Holly Garland and her family, Mom, stepfather William, and their four cats. The family has moved to a new neighborhood in San Francisco, and Holly is intrigued by her next-door neighbor's elaborate machine, which he calls a "de-yuckifier." The plot of this story is as slender as the volume itself; Holly meets the new neighbors, learns that babies are interesting-if somewhat yucky, and, in the end, her mother reveals that she is going to have a baby herself. Holly is, predictably, happy, since she has decided that she likes babies, even though they are yucky. Her voice is pleasant, but not particularly compelling. Upper middle-class urban youngsters may identify with her slightly eccentric, trendy family, but their cappuccino-sipping, tofu-eating lifestyle will seem far removed from reality for many others. The greatest disappointment of the book, however, was that the de-yuckifier never really worked, and the only plot resolution is Holly's mother's observation that "Yucky is in the eyes of the beholder." Cat Bowman Smith's loose black and white illustrations add charm, but this story is too slight to merit more than a cursory glance. 2002, Holiday House,
— Michele Tremaine
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-Freeman and Smith team up for a second chapter book featuring Holly, her mother, and stepfather who have just moved from an apartment to a house in San Francisco. In this summer before fourth grade, the child becomes acquainted with her new neighbors while still maintaining contact with old friends. Her two new friends are Xavier, who lives with his two fathers, and Annie, who is Jewish and Chinese. Xavier has a crush on Annie and hopes to win her over by putting her "yucky" baby sister in his de-yuckification machine. At the last minute, Annie decides to accept the baby, and she and Xavier remain friends. The story ends with Holly learning that she, too, will soon have a new sibling. This engaging book, with its humorous drawings, features contemporary middle-class urban life yet deals with the timeless theme of learning to adjust to new situations. It's also a good, nonjudgmental portrayal of alternative family lifestyles.-Marilyn Ackerman, Brooklyn Public Library, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Complete with jolly stepfather, new neighbors, gay fathers, and a new baby, Freeman takes up where The Trouble with Cats (2000) left off. Holly, her mother, and new stepfather have moved. Holly has the same problems as she did before: staying brave in the face of new challenges and keeping the cats in the house. She also needs to meet her new neighbors. What a diverse group they are. Many-perhaps too many-racial, ethnic, and lifestyle groups are represented in Holly's San Francisco neighborhood: hyphenated Aileen Cohen-Liu, Xavier with his two dads, and Annie with her Jewish/Polish mother and Chinese father. Xavier's fathers are introduced quickly but have little to do with the story: " 'I have two dads. And no mom. Alan and Jim are partners.' 'Oh, now I get it,' I said. 'You mean they're gay.'" As Holly works out the relationship between Annie and her yucky baby sister, the savvy reader will realize that mom and stepdad are about to spring their own yucky news. While there is some humor and the characters are likable enough, awkward first-person dialogue, unlikely situations, and a slow plot detract from total success. Even Xavier, the quirky boy next door, with his inexplicable crush on Annie and his "de-yucka-ma-box" invention, seems just another odd diversion. Smith's scratchy black-and-white sketches mirror the world painted by Freeman, but add little to it. Though the generous font and thoughtful layout is the perfect form for new readers, the trouble here is there's just not much story. (Fiction. 7-9)