Cobb’s 14th book comes complete with pirates, mysterious messages and a magic ring.

While the highly coveted Ring of Hope has extraordinary powers (it can immediately transport its owner out of harm’s way if there’s imminent danger), it also imposes a tremendous burden because not only does the owner become a target of covetous bad guys, but so does his or her family. But the ring itself decides who can work its magic and it will only bond with someone it deems “worthy.” When Ardin Delham, the ring’s last owner, dies, his wife passes the ring on to Paul, the younger and kinder-hearted of her two sons, because unlike her eldest, Charles, she feels Paul can “handle the power and responsibility.” Fast-forward to Capt. Darfous Warner, who hires the dubious and sure-footed Antonio Trovol to deliver a bottle containing a secret message to Capt. Paul Delham. Antonio in turn hires his goofy nephew Marcus to help him with the job. Next up we meet Peter, a young boy who has a talking pet monkey named Monk and lives a double life; a quiet one with his family and the other life as second mate for Capt. Paul in a world with both good and evil pirates. As the story quickly bounces along, it also grows increasingly complex as more characters are introduced into the myriad of plots and subplots and more mysterious messages are added to the mix. Some younger readers will most likely find the story, with its ancillary characters, secret identities and story-within-a-story format, too complicated to hold their attention, but the book’s slapstick appeal might provide some compensation for the confusion. The characters are rich and beautifully rendered, and the story is sprinkled with humor. One character is a retired pirate ship surgeon who makes his living designing and making women’s shoes. Much of the dialogue—especially between Peter and Monk and Antonio and Marcus—is delightfully silly. An index of characters would greatly aid any reader. Charming, simple black-and-white line drawings head up each chapter. Complicated hijinks don’t quite sink this spirited swashbuckling tale of mystery and magic.  


Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-0615537436

Page Count: 274

Publisher: 10 to 2 Children's Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs.


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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