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EVERYTHING SAD IS UNTRUE

(A TRUE STORY)

A modern epic.

“Every story is the sound of a storyteller begging to stay alive.”

Khosrou, the child, stands before his class in Oklahoma and tells stories of Iran, lifetimes’ worth of experiences compressed into writing prompts. Daniel, the adult, pieces together his “patchwork” past to stitch a quilt of memory in a free-wheeling, layered manner more reminiscent of a conversation than a text. At its most basic level, Nayeri’s offering is a fictionalized refugee’s memoir, an adult looking back at his childhood and the forced adoption of a new and infinitely more difficult life. Yet somehow “memoir” fails to do justice to the scope of the narrative, the self-proclaimed antithesis of just another “ ‘poor me’ tale of immigrant woe.” Like Scheherazade, Nayeri spins 1,001 tales: In under 400 pages he recounts Persian myth and history, leads readers through days banal and outstanding, waxes philosophical on the nature of life and love, and more. Not “beholden” to the linear conventions of Western storytelling, the story might come across as disjointed, but the various anecdotes are underscored by a painful coherence as they work to illuminate not only a larger story, but a life. And there is beauty amid the pain as well as laughter. The soul-sapping hopelessness of a refugee camp is treated with the same dramatic import as the struggle to eliminate on Western toilets. The language is evocative: simple yet precise, rife with the idiosyncratic and abjectly honest imagery characteristic of a child’s imagination. (This review has been updated to clarify that the book is a work of fiction.)

A modern epic. (author’s note, acknowledgments) (Historical fiction. 10-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64614-000-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Levine Querido

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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