An endearingly homespun tale that could nevertheless better balance its entertainment and education.



Aimed at elementary schoolers, Wagner’s heartwarming salute to recycling features the reincarnation of a friendly bottle and can.

In jaunty, rhymed text, Wagner introduces readers to Arnie and Bing—“Arnie, a pickle jar, and Bing, a lemonade can, / gave each other a very quick scan” after they find themselves sharing a shopping cart at the grocery store. Chewing the fat at the checkout line, Arnie and Bing discover they share a love of singing. Once home and tucked away in the dark precincts of the refrigerator, the pair sings a few tunes to keep things from getting glum; this is the kind of trying situation that forges lifelong friendships. Inevitably comes the day that both friends’ contents have been consumed; Wagner doesn’t spare readers the frisson that runs through Arnie and Bing when they’re sent to the recycling bin, and when that bin gets dumped in a truck, then deposited on the single-stream recycling floor. That’s not to say readers will be terrified, but the writing is intimate enough for them to identify with Arnie and Bing’s predicament—“Jumbled and scrunched with the paper and plastic, / their journey had gone from scary to drastic.” What will likely be new information for kids comes when the sorting commences—and the high drama drops a notch. Wagner gives a step-by-step explanation of the recycling process, with the creation of cullets and ingots and the fashioning of new containers. The book’s many photos are particularly good at conveying the processing of bottles and cans. Otherwise, the artwork is of the minimalist-intervention school—real photos with the occasional appending of cartoon eyes and mouth if a can or bottle has something to say. But those eyes are critical when Arnie and Bing are reborn as a salsa bottle and fruit punch can respectively. “Hey, hey, Bing! I KNEW that was you! / I could never forget your eyes of blue!”

An endearingly homespun tale that could nevertheless better balance its entertainment and education.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2010

ISBN: 978-1451577693

Page Count: 32

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2011

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This companion piece to the other fairy tales Marcia Brown has interpreted (see Puss In Boots, 1952, p. 548 and others) has the smoothness of a good translation and a unique charm to her feathery light pictures. The pictures have been done in sunset colors and the spreads on each page as they illustrate the story have the cumulative effect of soft cloud banks. Gentle.

Pub Date: June 15, 1954

ISBN: 0684126761

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1954

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Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs.


Rejoice! 25 years later, Wayside School is still in session, and the children in Mrs. Jewls’ 30th-floor classroom haven’t changed a bit.

The surreal yet oddly educational nature of their misadventures hasn’t either. There are out-and-out rib ticklers, such as a spelling lesson featuring made-up words and a determined class effort to collect 1 million nail clippings. Additionally, mean queen Kathy steps through a mirror that turns her weirdly nice and she discovers that she likes it, a four-way friendship survives a dumpster dive after lost homework, and Mrs. Jewls makes sure that a long-threatened “Ultimate Test” allows every student to show off a special talent. Episodic though the 30 new chapters are, there are continuing elements that bind them—even to previous outings, such as the note to an elusive teacher Calvin has been carrying since Sideways Stories From Wayside School (1978) and finally delivers. Add to that plenty of deadpan dialogue (“Arithmetic makes my brain numb,” complains Dameon. “That’s why they’re called ‘numb-ers,’ ” explains D.J.) and a wild storm from the titular cloud that shuffles the school’s contents “like a deck of cards,” and Sachar once again dishes up a confection as scrambled and delicious as lunch lady Miss Mush’s improvised “Rainbow Stew.” Diversity is primarily conveyed in the illustrations.

Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296538-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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