Readers who would like to go on a spirit quest should choose instead Sylvia Ross’ more carefully crafted and respectful Blue...

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THE YOUNG HEALER

On the day her little brother Peter is hospitalized with a life-threatening illness, 11-year-old Feather is taken on a spirit quest through Manhattan in a series of improbable events in which her Lakota grandfather passes on some of his powers as a traditional healer.

Feather describes the day she saved her 5-year-old brother's life in a chronological narrative she writes up after the fact. This frame reassures readers but removes most of the suspense. Her focus is not plot but the particulars of her spiritual training. This cultural appropriation of another’s religious traditions is surprisingly insensitive. Although the Texan author has dedicated his book to generic “First Americans,” his only stated personal connection is “lifelong interest and respect.” No sources are provided for the mishmash of Native American cultural and ceremonial details. Wooden dialogue and stereotyped characters add to reader discomfort. Also involved in Feather’s training are a magical taxi driver, an Arapaho with whom her grandfather can “talk the old talk,” although those peoples had different languages; a Kodiak bear in the Central Park Zoo; Mrs. Chen, the ageless owner of an international curio shop in Greenwich Village; and the Andersons’ Jewish landlady, a Holocaust survivor, who brings chicken soup to the boy.

Readers who would like to go on a spirit quest should choose instead Sylvia Ross’ more carefully crafted and respectful Blue Jay Girl (2010). (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-934133-49-1

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Mackinac Island Press

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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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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SWINDLE

From the Swindle series , Vol. 1

Eleven-year-old Griffin Bing is “the man with the plan.” If something needs doing, Griffin carefully plans a fix and his best friend Ben usually gets roped in as assistant. When the town council ignores his plan for a skate park on the grounds of the soon-to-be demolished Rockford House, Griffin plans a camp-out in the house. While there, he discovers a rare Babe Ruth baseball card. His family’s money worries are suddenly a thing of the past, until unscrupulous collectables dealer S. Wendell Palomino swindles him. Griffin and Ben plan to snatch the card back with a little help. Pet-lover Savannah whispers the blood-thirsty Doberman. Rock-climber “Pitch” takes care of scaling the house. Budding-actor Logan distracts the nosy neighbor. Computer-expert Melissa hacks Palomino’s e-mail and the house alarm. Little goes according to plan, but everything turns out all right in this improbable but fun romp by the prolific and always entertaining Korman. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-439-90344-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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