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A modern version of the Black Death finds brightly colored Mumpley Middle School students sniffling and sneezing, tumbling and leaping uncontrollably.

Sixth-grader Wilmer Dooley hopes that finding the cause of his classmates’ colorful colds will help him win the Sixth-Grade Science Medal as well as the attention of the glorious Roxie McGhee. Alternating Wilmer’s unconvincing journal entries with a third-person narration and writing under a pseudonym, author Allan Woodrow has taken a promising premise to exaggerated extremes. Vomit and snot plus clueless adults provide much of the humor. A gross but believable lunch conversation about the permissible ingredients in peanut butter (“[r]at hairs and cockroach parts”) is followed by a far-fetched Dooley dinner of Soupy Shoe Surprise, the ingredients of which range from lemons and pickles to a comb and a wrench. Food matters in this story. Wilmer’s scientist father, who made a small fortune with the invention of a snack-food ingredient called SugarBUZZZZ!, is working on a new food that will make vegetables taste like candy. Wilmer likes vegetables already. Unlike his classmates, who eat sugary treats, he eats spinach for lunch. And only Wilmer and conniving Claudius Dill, who’s allergic to SugarBUZZZZ!, are unaffected by the plague. Readers would have to be even more befuddled than Principal Shropshire not to solve this mediocre mystery themselves. (Fiction. 8-11)


Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7829-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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