A YEAR WITHOUT RAIN

Twelve-year-old Rachel, devastated to learn of her father’s impending nuptials to the local school teacher, devises a cunning plan to drive her away. The story takes place at the end of the 19th century in the Dakotas, where a yearlong drought has devastated the family farm. The extreme shortage of water compels their father to send Rachel and her brother to Atlanta to stay with their aunt. Although their mother died several years earlier, a discovery of her letters about her courtship and early marriage while staying in her childhood home reawakens the pain of losing her. Rachel is shocked when, close on the heels of these revelations, their father declares his intent to remarry. The plot moves in a predictable fashion; Rachel’s anger manifests itself in a rash act, resulting in sobering consequences that in turn calm her raging emotions and enable her to welcome her stepmother with equanimity. Rachel’s budding talent as an artist, inherited from her mother, lifts this tale beyond the ordinary. Love’s (I Remember the Alamo, 1999) descriptions of Rachel’s artistry give readers a view of the world from an artist’s perspective: “In the background was Mama’s grave, a green rectangle beneath the shady poplar trees. I’d painted the river and the sheep grazing in a spring meadow, and the brown ribbon of road unspooling toward the horizon.” Love handles the emotionally charged subject with compassion tempered with honesty; there are no saints here, adult or child, just raw feelings that will strike a sympathetic chord in reader’s hearts. An absorbing period piece addressing a universal theme with which contemporary readers can readily identify and which is spared mediocrity by Love’s eloquent prose. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 15, 2000

ISBN: 0-8234-1488-4

Page Count: 118

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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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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The book is a cute, but rather standard offering from Avi (Tom, Babette, and Simon, p. 776, etc.).

POPPY

From the Poppy series , Vol. 3

An adolescent mouse named Poppy is off on a romantic tryst with her rebel boyfriend when they are attacked by Mr. Ocax, the owl who rules over the area.

He kills the boyfriend, but Poppy escapes and Mr. Ocax vows to catch her. Mr. Ocax has convinced all the mice that he is their protector when, in fact, he preys on them mercilessly. When the mice ask his permission to move to a new house, he refuses, blaming Poppy for his decision. Poppy suspects that there is another reason Mr. Ocax doesn't want them to move and investigates to clear her name. With the help of a prickly old porcupine and her quick wits, Poppy defeats her nemesis and her own fears, saving her family in the bargain. 

The book is a cute, but rather standard offering from Avi (Tom, Babette, and Simon, p. 776, etc.). (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-531-09483-9

Page Count: 147

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1995

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