Verbose, but validating nonetheless.

WINGS

THE JOURNEY HOME

A young eagle struggles to remember who he is in this tale written by husband-and-wife team William and Elizabeth Hicks.

Benjamin is one of three eaglet siblings who are attempting to ace their first flying lesson. When a strong wind blows him off course and knocks him against a cliff, he sustains injuries to his head and wing. Disoriented, he lands in a haystack on a farm where he meets a family of chickens and befriends Jeremy, the barnyard's smallest rooster. Benjamin, now suffering from avian amnesia, has no recollection of who he is or where he came from, and despite his strange appearance, he and the other farm animals (à la “The Ugly Duckling”) assume he's simply an odd-looking chicken. Ben spends his time playing acornball with Jeremy and the other animals but yearns for something greater and experiences recurrent primal urges to fly. Soon Ben's increasingly radical behavior begins to ruffle the feathers of Jeremy's father Humphrey, who fears he will corrupt and endanger his son. Meanwhile, the barnyard contends with the ongoing threat of the “Egg-stealer,” a mysterious, terrifying creature who slinks into the barn at night to steal eggs that the hens have intentionally left, hoping to appease it and prevent further carnage. Ben is determined to end the reign of the Egg-stealer and prove his worth to the community. Ben meets other creatures—a caterpillar, a dove, a hummingbird—who impart bits of wisdom that he doesn't fully understand but nevertheless confirm his suspicion that life holds greater purpose. The story may appeal to some adults, but because of its limited vocabulary, lack of complex conflicts and edification of basic axioms (such as learning to appreciate oneself and viewing one's weaknesses as strengths), it’s best suited for children. Unfortunately, the number of descriptive passages—the book’s strong point—is far surpassed by the amount of dialogue, which is sometimes trite and often goes on too long, slowing down the story. Children, however, will still root for Ben, whose greatest moment of triumph comes from believing in himself.

Verbose, but validating nonetheless.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-615-42071-4

Page Count: 130

Publisher: Inner Realm Enterprises

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2012

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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