Insert tongue firmly in cheek before starting.

SODA POP

This 1970 Swedish classic, in its first English edition, introduces four generations of bachelor farmers—plus a burglar, a giraffe, and a barn full of tigers.

Adbåge’s flurry of childlike color spot illustrations, which are new, adds to the understandably surreal air of these episodic misadventures. Heading up the all-male, all-white cast, Everylad Mazarin, who has “ginormously kind eyes,” lives anything but quietly with his impulsive father, Soda Pop (portly, dressed in a bathrobe, wearing a tall tea cozy on his head), feisty elder Dartanyong, and Dartanyong’s grandpa, “so old he can only make cuckoo noises.” They share their rural compound with a mattress-eating giraffe, a swimming pool full of pike (and, occasionally, owls), and a barn stuffed with tigers in the wake of a sudden massive feline stampede. In this setting, such visitors as a “hotdog man” who keeps the tigers fed and a genial parolee who probably has something to do with the ongoing disappearances of all the brass knobs and other valuables are received with equal equanimity, and it seems only natural to finish off the day and final chapter with a bowl of “shocky poodling.” Readers can’t hope to make literal sense of this Scandinavian silliness, but those who give themselves up to it will find it deliciously diverting.

Insert tongue firmly in cheek before starting. (Nonsense fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-776570-10-2

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Gecko Press

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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

WAYSIDE SCHOOL BENEATH THE CLOUD OF DOOM

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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Formula horror from the 1990s still feels formulaic today.

GRAVE SECRETS

From the Deadtime Stories series , Vol. 1

The Deadtime Stories from the mid-1990s are rising again—this time in conjunction with a planned series of live-action TV-movies.

In this lightly edited reboot, preteen Amanda discovers an old doll buried in her backyard and shortly thereafter begins receiving ghostly messages written in sand or bathroom steam along the lines of “I want my baby back—now!” Then the doll disappears. Getting it back entails multiple encounters with Anna, the child ghost from whom it was stolen long ago, and the hostile, spooky old lady next door known to Amanda and friends as “Barnsey.” The shudders here are laboriously manufactured by contrived cliffhangers at each short chapter’s end, an obnoxious character who revels in sharing eerie rumors about Barnsey’s supposed witchy ways, nighttime expeditions into her yard and, particularly, with frequent screams: “And Kevin, who had been screaming his head off over Anna’s appearance, stopped screaming mid-scream the moment he saw Barnsey.” There’s no overt gore or violence, Anna fades away once she’s reunited with her doll and Barnsey, unsurprisingly, suddenly turns into a nice old lady.

Formula horror from the 1990s still feels formulaic today. (Horror. 9-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3065-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Starscape/Tom Doherty

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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