Despite a few small hiccups, this is an engaging read that should satisfy its young adult audience.

FARSIGHTED

The blind will see the future in Chand’s debut young-adult novel.

High school is a miserable place for young Alex Kosmitoras as he struggles to fit in. While the teenage years are tough for most people, Alex faces the additional challenge of being born blind and he is often the butt of jokes and the target of bullies. Alex’s home life proves difficult as well, and he is constantly at odds with his distant, impatient father. As if that weren’t enough, Alex begins to experience visions, mentally seeing events that haven’t yet occurred. Although these prophecies are an unsettling, confusing revelation, Alex’s year takes a turn for the better when he befriends Simmi, the new girl in town, and connects with the physic-next-door, Miss Teak, and her daughter, Shapri. With their guidance, Alex explores his newfound “gift” of second sight. And he needs all the help he can get, as his visions soon reveal that Simmi is in great danger; in the middle of lunch, Alex sees Simmi “choking, gasping for air, clawing frantically at her throat” and then dying in his arms. As the visions of her death continue, it becomes imperative that Alex learn to control and channel his physic revelations in order to identify the threat, protect Simmi and avert this deadly future. In spite of a slow start, Chand’s story quickly picks up steam as Alex, Simmi and Miss Teak work together to locate the mysterious character that threatens Simmi’s life. The mystery is intriguing and, with a few exceptions, Chand’s characters are compelling and diverse. Shapri is a standout, as she struggles against her own potential psychic gifts and wavers between feelings of love and annoyance for Alex. Chand also presents runes and prophecies at the beginning of each chapter, and though some readers may utilize these clues to make predictions, the concept doesn’t augment the excitement or mystery.

Despite a few small hiccups, this is an engaging read that should satisfy its young adult audience.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2011

ISBN: 978-0983930808

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Blue Crown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 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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