THE SCHOOL STORY

A world-class charmer, Clements (The Janitor’s Boy, 2000, etc.) woos aspiring young authors—as well as grown up publishers, editors, agents, parents, teachers, and even reviewers—with this tongue-in-cheek tale of a 12-year-old novelist’s triumphant debut. Sparked by a chance comment of her mother’s, a harried assistant editor for a (surely fictional) children’s imprint, Natalie draws on deep reserves of feeling and writing talent to create a moving story about a troubled schoolgirl and her father. First, it moves her pushy friend Zoe, who decides that it has to be published; then it moves a timorous, second-year English teacher into helping Zoe set up a virtual literary agency; then, submitted pseudonymously, it moves Natalie’s unsuspecting mother into peddling it to her waspish editor-in-chief. Depicting the world of children’s publishing as a delicious mix of idealism and office politics, Clements squires the manuscript past slush pile and contract, the editing process, and initial buzz (“The Cheater grabs hold of your heart and never lets go,” gushes Kirkus). Finally, in a tearful, joyous scene—carefully staged by Zoe, who turns out to be perfect agent material: cunning, loyal, devious, manipulative, utterly shameless—at the publication party, Natalie’s identity is revealed as news cameras roll. Selznick’s gnomic, realistic portraits at once reflect the tale’s droll undertone and deftly capture each character’s distinct personality. Terrific for flourishing school writing projects, this is practical as well as poignant. Indeed, it “grabs hold of yourheart and never lets go.” (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-82594-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2001

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A deft mix of chills and chuckles, not quite as sideways as Wayside School but in the same district.

A FRIENDLY TOWN THAT'S ALMOST ALWAYS BY THE OCEAN!

From the Secrets of Topsea series , Vol. 1

A fifth-grader struggles to fit in after he and his recently widowed mother move to a decidedly oddball new town.

As if the seemingly infinite pier, the lighthouse in the middle of town, and the beach teeming with enigmatic cats aren’t strange enough, Davy Jones discovers that his school locker has been relocated to the deep end of the swimming pool, his lunchtime fries are delivered by a “spudzooka,” and no one seems to be able to get his name right. On the other hand, his classmates welcome him, and in next to no time he’s breaking into an abandoned arcade to play pinball against a ghost, helping track down a pet pig gone missing on Gravity Maintenance Day, and like adventures that, often as not, take sinister swerves before edging back to the merely peculiar. Point-of-view duties pass freely from character to character, and chapters are punctuated with extracts from the Topsea School Gazette (“Today’s Seaweed Level: Medium-high and feisty”), bulletins on such topics as the safe handling of rubber ducks, and background notes on, for instance, the five local seasons, giving the narrative a pleasantly loose-jointed feel. Davy presents as white, but several other central cast members are specifically described as dark- or light-skinned and are so depicted in the frequent line drawings; one has two moms.

A deft mix of chills and chuckles, not quite as sideways as Wayside School but in the same district. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-00005-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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THE ARABIAN NIGHTS

In a large, handsome format, Tarnowska offers six tales plus an abbreviated version of the frame story, retold in formal but contemporary language and sandwiched between a note on the Nights’ place in her childhood in Lebanon and a page of glossary and source notes. Rather than preserve the traditional embedded structure and cliffhanger cutoffs, she keeps each story discrete and tones down the sex and violence. This structure begs the question of why Shahriyar lets Shahrazade [sic] live if she tells each evening’s tale complete, but it serves to simplify the reading for those who want just one tale at a time. Only the opener, “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp,” is likely to be familiar to young readers; in others a prince learns to control a flying “Ebony Horse” by “twiddling” its ears, contending djinn argue whether “Prince Kamar el Zaman [or] Princess Boudour” is the more beautiful (the prince wins) and in a Cinderella tale a “Diamond Anklet” subs for the glass slipper. Hénaff’s stylized scenes of domed cityscapes and turbaned figures add properly whimsical visual notes to this short but animated gathering. (Folktales. 10-12)

 

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-84686-122-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Barefoot Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2010

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