Since the publication of The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups (1998), Wisniewski has been dodging the law while continuing his lonely crusade to expose the truth behind those meaningless grown-up rules. The world may rest easy; he has resurfaced long enough to bring more of this duplicity to light. Disguised as the Tooth Fairy, he discovers that the real reason we should brush our teeth is to keep them from starting tooth riots; disguised as a feather duster, he discovers that the real reason we should clean under our beds is to prevent the proliferation of killer dust bunnies; disguised as a mop, he discovers that the real reason we shouldn’t stay in the bath too long is to keep from going down the drain; and so on. The dauntless secret agent employs his X-acto knife to great effect, detailing the prunification of a sleeping bather and the potbellied trapezoid of the four cruddy food groups (salt, grease, sugar, and fat, which when ingested in excess result in brainjacking—shades of the Twinkie defense). Other media occasionally enhance the cut-paper collages; the killer dust bunny, for instance, is a marvelous menace made up of what appears to be actual dust, with gold foil teeth and Cheerio eyes. Those familiar with the first exposé of adult rule-making will recognize that there is absolutely nothing new about this offering; it simply repeats the format and formula of its predecessor while losing some of its zany freshness. It is also only nominally subversive: while couched fancifully, the description of Ginger Vitus’s depredations on teeth and gums would be at home in any dentist’s office. Still, middle-grade kids seem to eat this stuff up, and this will likely move briskly, especially where the first has had success. (Picture book. 7-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-17854-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001

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From the Lemonade War series , Vol. 1

Told from the point of view of two warring siblings, this could have been an engaging first chapter book. Unfortunately, the length makes it less likely to appeal to the intended audience. Jessie and Evan are usually good friends as well as sister and brother. But the news that bright Jessie will be skipping a grade to join Evan’s fourth-grade class creates tension. Evan believes himself to be less than clever; Jessie’s emotional maturity doesn’t quite measure up to her intelligence. Rivalry and misunderstandings grow as the two compete to earn the most money in the waning days of summer. The plot rolls along smoothly and readers will be able to both follow the action and feel superior to both main characters as their motivations and misconceptions are clearly displayed. Indeed, a bit more subtlety in characterization might have strengthened the book’s appeal. The final resolution is not entirely believable, but the emphasis on cooperation and understanding is clear. Earnest and potentially successful, but just misses the mark. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 23, 2007

ISBN: 0-618-75043-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is...

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Applegate tackles homelessness in her first novel since 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan.

Hunger is a constant for soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson and his family, and the accompanying dizziness may be why his imaginary friend is back. A giant cat named Crenshaw first appeared after Jackson finished first grade, when his parents moved the family into their minivan for several months. Now they’re facing eviction again, and Jackson’s afraid that he won’t be going to school next year with his friend Marisol. When Crenshaw shows up on a surfboard, Jackson, an aspiring scientist who likes facts, wonders whether Crenshaw is real or a figment of his imagination. Jackson’s first-person narrative moves from the present day, when he wishes that his parents understood that he’s old enough to hear the truth about the family’s finances, to the first time they were homeless and back to the present. The structure allows readers access to the slow buildup of Jackson’s panic and his need for a friend and stability in his life. Crenshaw tells Jackson that “Imaginary friends don’t come of their own volition. We are invited. We stay as long as we’re needed.” The cat’s voice, with its adult tone, is the conduit for the novel’s lessons: “You need to tell the truth, my friend….To the person who matters most of all.”

Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is nevertheless a somberly affecting one . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04323-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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