EVERYTHING SAD IS UNTRUE

(A TRUE STORY)

“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 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

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 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay.

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GHOST

From the Track series , Vol. 1

Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw feels like he’s been running ever since his dad pulled that gun on him and his mom—and used it.

His dad’s been in jail three years now, but Ghost still feels the trauma, which is probably at the root of the many “altercations” he gets into at middle school. When he inserts himself into a practice for a local elite track team, the Defenders, he’s fast enough that the hard-as-nails coach decides to put him on the team. Ghost is surprised to find himself caring enough about being on the team that he curbs his behavior to avoid “altercations.” But Ma doesn’t have money to spare on things like fancy running shoes, so Ghost shoplifts a pair that make his feet feel impossibly light—and his conscience correspondingly heavy. Ghost’s narration is candid and colloquial, reminiscent of such original voices as Bud Caldwell and Joey Pigza; his level of self-understanding is both believably childlike and disarming in its perception. He is self-focused enough that secondary characters initially feel one-dimensional, Coach in particular, but as he gets to know them better, so do readers, in a way that unfolds naturally and pleasingly. His three fellow “newbies” on the Defenders await their turns to star in subsequent series outings. Characters are black by default; those few white people in Ghost’s world are described as such.

An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5015-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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