A breezy, wide-open window into the turbulent heart of a dramatic third-grade adventurer and her small-town Virginia...

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IVA HONEYSUCKLE DISCOVERS THE WORLD

—WELL, HER PART OF VIRGINIA, ANYWAY

Eight-year-old Iva Honeycutt dreams of being a discoverer—and she’s sure her great-grandfather Ludwell’s treasure map, if not her unreliable dog Sweetlips, will help make that wish come true.

Iva considers herself to be “interesting, different”—even by the standards of Uncertain, Va., and its eccentric cast of characters, from taxidermist and tax man Mr. Priddy to her mouth-breathing cousin Heaven. Iva can’t stand Heaven—she tattles, prays out loud and even steals her best friend. Iva’s evolving relationship with this long-dreaded cousin and her obsession with finding the gold General Braddock buried during the French and Indian War propel the pleasantly rambling story, but the real treasure here is the fresh, quirky characterization of Iva and the comical reflection of a Southern family that embraces Johnny Cash, Korea, and streaking… and that’s just at breakfast. Though crayon colors are contemporary, the excessively applied figurative language feels old-fashioned, with expressions like “one red cent” and “hotter than smoke from a locomotive.” Expressions like “marks” (vs. grades) and “a fat lot” even add a curiously English flair to the goings-on. Ross’ expressive, cartoonish black-and-white sketches are just goofy enough to fit the story’s exuberance.

A breezy, wide-open window into the turbulent heart of a dramatic third-grade adventurer and her small-town Virginia community. (Fiction. 9-11) 

Pub Date: April 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-3173-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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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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