AESOP'S FABLES

Wearing a deliberate African patina, this refreshing collection of 16 Aesop fables takes place in the South African veld, giving these timeless moral tales a visual and verbal facelift.

In opening remarks, Naidoo theorizes Aesop originated from Africa, accounting for a prevalence of African animals in his fables and a penchant for the moral lessons characteristic of African folktales. Cultivating this African flavor, Naidoo sprinkles her text with native words and phrases such as “mealie” (corn) and “mampara” (fool), providing footnote translations when appropriate. In typical Aesop fashion, animals serve as lead characters, but Naidoo adds to the African texture by populating the tales with distinctive African animals like zebras, jackals, braks (mongrel dogs), rinkhals (spitting cobra), snake eagles, klipspringer (small antelope) and kudu (large grey antelope). Despite the African twist, the single-action narrative of each fable preserves the impersonal moral tone of the originals, emphasizing discretion (“The Old Lion”), prudence (“The Lion and the Warthog”), moderation (“The Eagle and the Tortoise”) and forethought (“The Grasshopper and the Ants”). Primitive, whimsical watercolor-and-pencil illustrations preserve the African theme. Decorative borders set off each fable, while full-page illustrations capture the drama, foolishness or humor with special focus on the droll antics and expressions of the animal characters. A delightful new rendition of some old favorites. (Fables. 5-11)  

 

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-84780-007-7

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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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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An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education.

IF I BUILT A SCHOOL

A young visionary describes his ideal school: “Perfectly planned and impeccably clean. / On a scale, 1 to 10, it’s more like 15!”

In keeping with the self-indulgently fanciful lines of If I Built a Car (2005) and If I Built a House (2012), young Jack outlines in Seussian rhyme a shiny, bright, futuristic facility in which students are swept to open-roofed classes in clear tubes, there are no tests but lots of field trips, and art, music, and science are afterthoughts next to the huge and awesome gym, playground, and lunchroom. A robot and lots of cute puppies (including one in a wheeled cart) greet students at the door, robotically made-to-order lunches range from “PB & jelly to squid, lightly seared,” and the library’s books are all animated popups rather than the “everyday regular” sorts. There are no guards to be seen in the spacious hallways—hardly any adults at all, come to that—and the sparse coed student body features light- and dark-skinned figures in roughly equal numbers, a few with Asian features, and one in a wheelchair. Aside from the lack of restrooms, it seems an idyllic environment—at least for dog-loving children who prefer sports and play over quieter pursuits.

An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55291-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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