A joke that is on its way to wearing thin.



From the Scary School series , Vol. 2

A new semester of “learning, horror, and mayhem” at a school where all the faculty and half of the students are monsters, the narrator is a ghost and the Locker of Infinite Oblivion is just one of the dark fates awaiting incautious passersby.

With the same danger of sudden death but a lower body count than its predecessor, Scary School (2011), this patchy sequel opens with the rescue of a class that has been trapped on an endless slide all summer. (This was chronicled in an added chapter of Scary School buried on the author’s website.) It climaxes with a spirited defense of the school against an army of karate monsters and along the way introduces characters like budding author Steven Kingsley and aptly named Tanya Tarantula to join continuing ones. Among the latter shines weirdly ordinary Charles Nukid, whose struggles to escape the amorous advances of the Monster King’s daughter, Princess Zogette (“I have always had a thing for younger men. I am a quarter cougar, after all”), precipitate the climactic battle. Fischer’s black-and-white views of sober children and leering but unfrightening creatures reinforce the underlying premise that it’s all in fun. Even readers with a hearty appetite for monsters may find the onslaught becoming tedious after the first dozen or so episodes, though.

A joke that is on its way to wearing thin. (website) (Fantasy. 8-11)

Pub Date: June 26, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-16095-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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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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One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.


A middle-aged woman sidelined by a horrific accident finds even sharper pains waiting on the other side of her recuperation in this expert nightmare by Hardy, familiar to many readers as Megan Hart, author of All the Secrets We Keep (2017), etc.

Five months ago, while she was on her way to the hospital with an ailing gallbladder, Diana Sparrow’s car hit a deer on a rural Pennsylvania road. When she awoke, she was minus her gallbladder, two working collarbones (and therefore two functioning arms), and her memory. During a recovery that would’ve been impossible without the constant ministrations of Harriett Richmond, the mother-in-law who’s the real reason Diana married her husband, Jonathan, Diana’s discovered that Jonathan has been cheating on her with her childhood friend Valerie Delagatti. Divorce is out of the question: Diana’s grown used to the pampered lifestyle the prenup she’d signed would snatch away from her. Every day is filled with torments. She slips and falls in a pool of wine on her kitchen floor she’s sure she didn’t spill herself. At the emergency room, her credit card and debit card are declined. She feels that she hates oppressively solicitous Harriett but has no idea why. Her sessions with her psychiatrist fail to heal her rage at her adoptive mother, an addict who abandoned her then returned only to disappear again and die an ugly death. Even worse, her attempts to recover her lost memory lead to an excruciatingly paced series of revelations. Val says Diana asked her to seduce Jonathan. Diana realizes that Cole, a fellow student in her watercolor class, isn’t the stranger she’d thought he was. Where can this maze of deceptions possibly end?

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-470-0

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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This revenger’s comedy, dotted with references to classic plays and philosophical concepts, will be a joy for pranksters and...


From the Terrible Two series , Vol. 2

When pranking perfection meets the seemingly unprankable foe, who gets the last laugh?

Terrible Two Niles and Miles have been merrily pranking their favorite targets, Principal Barkin and his dim, loathsome son Josh, at school and in town all autumn long. Fed up with the plague of pranks, former Principal Barkin (father of the current one) stages a coup d’état at a school board meeting and takes back his old job. This new-old Principal Barkin is draconian in his control of the school. He hangs a sign counting the days since the last prank…which, since he avows there is no prank if no one reacts (and he never reacts), means there have been no pranks. Miles and Niles despair as one after another of their complex, devious plots are ignored. School becomes unbearable until they seek help from a most unlikely source. Can three succeed where two have failed? John and Barnett’s sophomore effort is as much fun as series opener The Terrible Two (2015). The boys’ history as rivals and their home lives barely receive mention here, so the first volume is a must-read—no hardship. Cornell’s line drawings add to the goofy, deadpan experience.

This revenger’s comedy, dotted with references to classic plays and philosophical concepts, will be a joy for pranksters and seekers of a good-hearted laugh. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4197-1680-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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