Original storytelling with the feel of the best folklore, enhanced by illustrations done in a style not seen anyplace else.

READ REVIEW

THE STORYTELLER

The art of storytelling is celebrated as a life-giving force in this enthralling picture book set in Morocco.

A nameless, thirsty boy meets a storyteller and is drawn to return day after day to listen to intricately linked stories and to learn the older man’s art. The stories bring not only sustenance to the boy’s inner life, but water to his lips, for in this world, storytelling and water are symbolically connected. Stories will ward off the great drought if the Sahara encroaches on the cities, but only if young people keep the tradition alive. And so, in the manner of Scheherazade, the stories unfold, and the protagonist retells the story of the boy who saved the city from the sandstorm that arrived as a large djinn by telling him a story, day by day. With the stories embodying sharing, creativity, and hope, the life force of cool blue water appears in the illustrations, the antithesis of the destructive brown sand. Beautiful swirls of blue dominate many of the intricately bordered double-page spreads, fighting against the tans and browns of the djinn and the sands he represents. Each spread takes on a life of its own, sometimes highly geometric, other times full of swiftly crayon-drawn individuals, and still others with heavily inked and outlined figures.

Original storytelling with the feel of the best folklore, enhanced by illustrations done in a style not seen anyplace else. (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book. 6-11)

Pub Date: June 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3518-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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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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An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education.

IF I BUILT A SCHOOL

A young visionary describes his ideal school: “Perfectly planned and impeccably clean. / On a scale, 1 to 10, it’s more like 15!”

In keeping with the self-indulgently fanciful lines of If I Built a Car (2005) and If I Built a House (2012), young Jack outlines in Seussian rhyme a shiny, bright, futuristic facility in which students are swept to open-roofed classes in clear tubes, there are no tests but lots of field trips, and art, music, and science are afterthoughts next to the huge and awesome gym, playground, and lunchroom. A robot and lots of cute puppies (including one in a wheeled cart) greet students at the door, robotically made-to-order lunches range from “PB & jelly to squid, lightly seared,” and the library’s books are all animated popups rather than the “everyday regular” sorts. There are no guards to be seen in the spacious hallways—hardly any adults at all, come to that—and the sparse coed student body features light- and dark-skinned figures in roughly equal numbers, a few with Asian features, and one in a wheelchair. Aside from the lack of restrooms, it seems an idyllic environment—at least for dog-loving children who prefer sports and play over quieter pursuits.

An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55291-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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