An enjoyable and well-told story of magic and mystery.

READ REVIEW

THE MIDNIGHT GLASS

A boy seeks to unlock the secrets of the cursed town of Davenport in this debut middle-grade novel.

When his widowed mother takes a job in a new town, 11-year-old Wyatt Dumont doesn’t mind moving. At least it will get him away from the local bully. Wyatt’s older sister, Roxanne, a moody goth teenager, isn’t as thrilled to leave her friends behind. And there is more that their mom isn’t telling them: “If we move there,” Roxy tells Wyatt, “she has to sign a contract for a year, and none of us can leave, not even for vacation.” Wyatt’s mom refuses to explain. Once the family drives through the dark forest that isolates the town of Davenport, the trio is let through a strange iron gate by a masked figure. Wyatt can’t help but wonder what is going on, but he starts to agree with his sister that moving was a mistake when he spots a 10-legged spider creeping through his new room. Shortly after, he finds out that the town is cursed and has been in unbroken night for the last 400 years. From there the mystery only deepens as Wyatt meets the peculiar denizens of Davenport and learns the source of the curse and discovers an ancient artifact. While finding new friends at school (and a new bully to deal with as well), Wyatt begins to understand that something strange—stranger than usual, anyway—is happening in Davenport. Vaughn has filled the world of the novel with fascinatingly unique creatures (“Wyatt looked into the darkness to see a smiling man with green skin and broad, finlike ears”). The author has tied them together in a twisted plot that should compel readers to keep turning pages to find the answers to the many enigmas of Davenport. What happened to the town and its people, what are they afraid of beyond the gate, and what role will Wyatt and his friends play? Most of all, what exactly is the Midnight Glass, and will it be the town’s salvation or its doom?

An enjoyable and well-told story of magic and mystery.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9963653-0-7

Page Count: 243

Publisher: Branford Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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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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