Fascinating, intense, and gripping.

Ava is Jewish, her cousin Nadeem is Muslim, and they both love their wise, possibly magical, Jewish Granny Buena.

The children are being bullied because of their religions and seek comfort from Granny. She selects a silver button covered in rubies from a gilded box. As she begins the tale of how their Jewish ancestor Ester acquired this button from the Muslim prince Abdur Rahman and his servant Bedir, the action shifts to North Africa 1,000 years ago. When Granny stops midtale, Ava takes the button and sews it onto her sweatshirt—which magically transports the children and Granny’s cat Sheba to the marketplace at Sabtah at the moment Granny stopped the story. They are recognized as visiting cousins but retain their modern perspective. Ava, Nadeem, and Sheba are involved in all the ensuing activities and adventures. But Ester is the real hero, aiding the endangered prince’s escape by sailing him across to Spain (where her family will follow) to fulfill his destiny, ruling over Jews and Muslims working together pursuing knowledge. The authors describe sights, sounds, and daily life in beautiful, meticulous detail, seamlessly weaving in historical and cultural information and emphasizing the similarities in Jewish and Muslim philosophies. Both the modern and medieval characters are presented in emotionally charged language as unique individuals with strong personalities. Are there more stories in Granny’s magical button box? Granny’s wink indicates a possible sequel. Though religion plays a major role, the characters’ races aren’t made explicit.

Fascinating, intense, and gripping. (photos, glossary, authors’ note) (Historical fiction/fantasy. 9-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72842-396-8

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022


Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000


From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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