ABOUT THE B'NAI BAGELS

Jewish shmewish, everybody knows, so who cares? The early chapters are as inflected as The Goldbergs, and Bessie Setzer scorning to add raisins to her stuffed cabbage ("No one tells Heinz how to make ketchup. . .") is the salt of matzo-ball motherhood; but though one of Mark's worries is his impending Bar Mitzvah, being Jewish is not an issue until, on p. 109, a resentful boy blurts out "Watch it, Jew Boy"—and the reader, caught unawares, is shocked. Not so Mark: teammate Botts' latent anti-Semitism, surfacing away from the ballfield, is only another problem of the overlap between "what happens to me as a guy and what happens to me as a guy whose mother manages the team." And that is the crux of the book, although Bessie's triumphant disclosure that she's to manage the B'nai B'rith Little Leaguers, her glee in blackmailing Mark's college brother into coaching and her unorthodox techniques of handling the (self-dubbed) Bagels command major attention in the first half. That, and her funny fumbles with words. But the story is Mark's from the middle and he acquits himself well: he doesn't tell on Botts for selling looks at the Playgirl centerfold or for name-calling (but the implication is not ignored); foregoes a chance to get back at the obnoxious boy who's become his best friend's best friend; and, swallowing his dismay at learning he was a leftover in the first Little League auction and his discomfiture at being under the thumb of mother and brother, pulls himself up as a player. His summation, already implicit, needn't have been stated, and some of the situation comedy seems excessive but the book, and Bessie, are as wise as they are warm. A further attraction is the fine supporting cast, notably that twelve-year-old charmer, Fortune Cookie Rivera.

Pub Date: March 21, 1969

ISBN: 1416957987

Page Count: 211

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1969

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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A witty addition to the long-running series.

THE DEEP END

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 15

The Wimpy Kid hits the road.

The Heffley clan has been stuck living together in Gramma’s basement for two months, waiting for the family home to be repaired, and the constant togetherness has been getting on everybody’s nerves. Luckily Greg’s Uncle Gary has a camper waiting for someone to use it, and so the Heffleys set off on the open road looking for an adventurous vacation, hoping the changing scenery will bring a spark back to the family unit. The winding road leads the Heffleys to a sprawling RV park, a setting teeming with possibilities for Greg to get up to his usual shenanigans. Greg’s snarky asides and misadventures continue to entertain. At this point the Wimpy Kid books run like a well-oiled machine, paced perfectly with witty lines, smart gags, and charming cartoons. Kinney knows just where to put a joke, the precise moment to give a character shading, and exactly how to get the narrative rolling, spinning out the oddest plot developments. The appreciation Kinney has for these characters seeps through the novels, endearing the Heffleys to readers even through this title, the 15th installment in a franchise boasting spinoffs, movies, and merchandise. There may come a time when Greg and his family overstay their welcome, but thankfully that day still seems far off.

A witty addition to the long-running series. (Humor. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4868-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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