About the daydreams indulged in by Warren, who lives with his grandmother and his older (high-school) sister Weezie because his mother is a fugitive. Always an activist for peace, the environment, and other such causes, Warren's mother fell in with a Weathermen-type group and has been wanted by the FBI since Warren was five. He still longs for her and fantasizes about their reunion; but it soon becomes clear that, as Weezie well knows, their mother's commitments don't extend to her children. Meanwhile, Warren gluts out on horror films and fills his time, in class and elsewhere, inventing them. Much of the book, too, is filled with Warren's highly inventive scenarios-especially the one about Bubbles, the two-thousand-pound goldfish at large in the sewers, which Warren finishes triumphantly, but just a little regretfully, as the book ends. By then, his grandmother has died (an aunt will move in to take her place) and Warren has burst into tears at the cemetery—not in mourning for his grandmother, but because he finally realizes that his mother will not show up. From that point, it's just a few steps—talks with Weezie, who is bravely realistic but still hurt, and an unsatisfactory phone conversation with his mother (she has called, Weezie informs him, five times in three years)—until Warren, disabused of the more impeding daydream of his mother's return, decides to give up the others too. Still, he allows himself an out: the goldfish, hilariously flushed out to sea, has left a giant egg behind. And that's fine, because Warren's films are highly entertaining. The interlocking fantasies and Warren's liberation from them may be a little too neat, and his mother seems less an individual than a type Byars wants to comment on. But Weezie is a touching character, the grandmother a vivid caricature, and Warren's screenplays give him the starch he needs as a character too.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1982

ISBN: 0064408558

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1982

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.


Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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