THREE DAYS

Eleven-year-old Jackie is enjoying mightily her father-daughter trip to Italy—until her father suffers a heart attack while driving back to their hotel one evening. As if this is not terrifying enough, when a pair of men pull over to help (she thinks), they instead kidnap her and take her to their house in the Calabrian countryside—but why? Once there, Jackie meets Claudia, a kind but mysteriously sad woman who seems to want her to be happy there. Napoli’s (Albert, p. 263, etc.) choice of a first-person, present-tense narration is particularly effective here; it isolates the reader in Jackie’s reality just as much as Jackie herself is isolated without recourse in a place where she cannot even understand the language. She emerges as a perfectly ordinary child who wants nothing more than to return home to her mother, but whose desperate need for any security at all within her bizarre circumstances causes her to cling to the only thing that is familiar now, her captors. Jackie’s situation is highly compelling, but the narrative motor that drives it is just as highly contrived: it turns out that Claudia has recently lost her own daughter, and the two men, her father and brother, have decided to kidnap Jackie as a replacement. While perhaps emotionally convincing within the terms of the story, it nevertheless strains credulity to the limit in every other way. Still, if readers are sufficiently grabbed by Jackie’s ingenuous voice and her remarkable predicament, they may be willing to forgive the contrivance for the experience. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-525-46790-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001

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

WAYSIDE SCHOOL BENEATH THE CLOUD OF DOOM

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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The book is a cute, but rather standard offering from Avi (Tom, Babette, and Simon, p. 776, etc.).

POPPY

From the Poppy series , Vol. 3

An adolescent mouse named Poppy is off on a romantic tryst with her rebel boyfriend when they are attacked by Mr. Ocax, the owl who rules over the area.

He kills the boyfriend, but Poppy escapes and Mr. Ocax vows to catch her. Mr. Ocax has convinced all the mice that he is their protector when, in fact, he preys on them mercilessly. When the mice ask his permission to move to a new house, he refuses, blaming Poppy for his decision. Poppy suspects that there is another reason Mr. Ocax doesn't want them to move and investigates to clear her name. With the help of a prickly old porcupine and her quick wits, Poppy defeats her nemesis and her own fears, saving her family in the bargain. 

The book is a cute, but rather standard offering from Avi (Tom, Babette, and Simon, p. 776, etc.). (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-531-09483-9

Page Count: 147

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1995

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