A minor classic featuring a pair of intrepid protagonists, a comically suspenseful climax, and a mildly caricatured adult...

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DOT AND ANTON

An unlikely secret friendship leads to a scotched burglary and generous quantities of just deserts in this freshly translated caper from the author of Emil and the Detectives.

Related in a breezy tone, the story pairs Luise “Dot” Pogge, the impulsive daughter of a wealthy Berlin walking-stick manufacturer, with kind and canny Anton Gast, who is struggling to make ends meet by selling shoelaces while nursing his single mother back to health after cancer surgery. The two are kindred spirits despite their differing social stations. Dot is the sort who pulls her own loose tooth and also makes up words (“It looks a bit dilapissipated”), so off she marches to Anton’s school when she hears that he’s in trouble to buttonhole his teacher and explain why he’s so exhausted. Anton returns the favor when he discovers that Dot’s new governess Miss Andacht—“very tall, very thin and very crazy”— is conniving with her unsavory “fiance” to rifle the Pogges’ apartment. First published in 1931 and last available in English in 1973, the tale is presented here in handsome packaging with its original fluent line drawings, and it wears its age reasonably well. But the plot is rather subsumed by character studies. Following each chapter, the author tucks in ruminative remarks inviting readers to consider the rights and wrongs of what has just occurred, how such themes as duty and telling lies have come into play, why some people are just “nasty pieces of work,” or how life isn’t always fair. Sometimes it is, though, and here, while Miss Andacht ends up “in the soup” (and her fiance in prison), the grateful Pogges welcome Anton and his newly ambulatory mother permanently into the extended household.

A minor classic featuring a pair of intrepid protagonists, a comically suspenseful climax, and a mildly caricatured adult cast. (introduction, postscript) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-78269-057-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Pushkin Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

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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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Formula horror from the 1990s still feels formulaic today.

GRAVE SECRETS

From the Deadtime Stories series , Vol. 1

The Deadtime Stories from the mid-1990s are rising again—this time in conjunction with a planned series of live-action TV-movies.

In this lightly edited reboot, preteen Amanda discovers an old doll buried in her backyard and shortly thereafter begins receiving ghostly messages written in sand or bathroom steam along the lines of “I want my baby back—now!” Then the doll disappears. Getting it back entails multiple encounters with Anna, the child ghost from whom it was stolen long ago, and the hostile, spooky old lady next door known to Amanda and friends as “Barnsey.” The shudders here are laboriously manufactured by contrived cliffhangers at each short chapter’s end, an obnoxious character who revels in sharing eerie rumors about Barnsey’s supposed witchy ways, nighttime expeditions into her yard and, particularly, with frequent screams: “And Kevin, who had been screaming his head off over Anna’s appearance, stopped screaming mid-scream the moment he saw Barnsey.” There’s no overt gore or violence, Anna fades away once she’s reunited with her doll and Barnsey, unsurprisingly, suddenly turns into a nice old lady.

Formula horror from the 1990s still feels formulaic today. (Horror. 9-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3065-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Starscape/Tom Doherty

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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