Uplifting and clever, Mutén’s tale also includes a layer of biographical detail sure to tantalize Dickinson lovers...

MISS EMILY

The Belle of Amherst leads some young friends on a grand adventure.

Drawing on Dickinson’s playfulness and delight in children, Mutén fashions this light verse story told from the perspective of young MacGregor “Mac” Jenkins, the pastor’s son who lived across the street from the Dickinson residence (in real life) and was a playmate of the poet’s niece and nephew. With the help of Phelan’s wispy, textured drawings, Mutén imagines the famously reclusive poet playfully disguised as “Proserpina—Queen of the Night,” leading her tiny band of “Amherst gypsies” on a midnight quest to spy the arrival of the Great Golden Menagerie and Circus at the Amherst train station. Both poet and children thrill at the opportunity to meet a fortuneteller and witness the unloading of exotic circus animals, but as they speed home to avoid being recognized, Mac falls and injures himself. Mac’s resulting convalescence, landing him “housebound / like a winter bee in the hive,” draws not only an unprecedented visit from “Miss Emily,” but the chance for her to treat Mac and friends to another tale. It also gives Mutén an apt occasion to weave in a bit of actual correspondence from the poet to the children outlining her wish: “Please never improve—you are perfect now.”

Uplifting and clever, Mutén’s tale also includes a layer of biographical detail sure to tantalize Dickinson lovers everywhere. (biographical notes, bibliography) (Verse novel. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5734-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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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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Nellie Bly’s contemporary namesake does her proud.

THE NEWSPAPER CLUB

From the Newspaper Club series , Vol. 1

Eleven-year-old Nellie’s investigative reporting leads her to solve a mystery, start a newspaper, and learn key lessons about growing up.

Nellie’s voice is frank and often funny—and always full of information about newspapers. She tells readers of the first meeting of her newspaper club and then says, “But maybe I’m burying the lede…what Dad calls it when a reporter puts the most interesting part…in the middle or toward the end.” (This and other journalism vocabulary is formally defined in a closing glossary.) She backtracks to earlier that summer, when she and her mother were newly moved into a house next to her mother’s best friend in rural Bear Creek, Maine. Nellie explains that the newspaper that employed both of her parents in “the city” had folded soon after her father left for business in Asia. When Bear Creek Park gets closed due to mysterious, petty crimes, Nellie feels compelled to investigate. She feels closest to her dad when on the park’s swings, and she is more comfortable interviewing adults than befriending peers. Getting to know a plethora of characters through Nellie’s eyes is as much fun as watching Nellie blossom. Although astute readers will have guessed the park’s vandalizers, they are rewarded by observing Nellie’s fact-checking process. A late revelation about Nellie’s father does not significantly detract from this fully realized story of a young girl adjusting admirably to new circumstances. Nellie and her mother present white; secondary characters are diverse.

Nellie Bly’s contemporary namesake does her proud. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7624-9685-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Running Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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