SEVEN SPIDERS SPINNING

A lighthearted fantasy that, while easily read, is as intricately structured as a spider's web. The arachnids in question are hatched just in time to be preserved in ice as the Ice Age clamps down; in a series of happenstances succinctly summarized in a preface, they make their way from Russia to 20th- century Vermont, where their sudden appearance after accidentally thawing precipitates a heart attack on the part of the truck driver who's taking them to researchers at Harvard University. The first fellow creatures the escaped spiders see are seven schoolgirls, the Tattletales: ``Each spider picked out a girl to be its mother.'' But the devotion inspired by this imprinting soon curdles into hate as, one by one, the spiders seek out their loved ones in the local school and come to dire demises—luckily, since (though only the reader knows this until the end) the spiders have a deadly bite. Meanwhile, nice teacher Miss Earth tries to get the Tattletales and their male rivals, the Copycats, to cooperate in a class Halloween skit; there's a comic romance between the hospitalized truck driver and Nurse Lark, despite curmudgeonly Head Nurse Crisp; and obnoxious TV muckraker Meg Snoople prowls in a helicopter, trying to incite trouble so that she can report it. In a grand finale, the penultimate spider bites the beloved Miss Earth, who is saved, in the best classic tradition, with the help of all (including the insistent Snoople), by an ingenious and perfectly childlike cure. A fast, delightfully entertaining romp. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 1994

ISBN: 0-395-68965-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994

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Yet another novel about dreading middle school, this breezy beach read is well-done but offers little new.

11 BEFORE 12

Two BFFs tackle the anxiety-riddled transition to middle school by creating a list of 11 things to accomplish before their 12th birthdays in November.

Kaylan has what her Italian grandmother called “agita”—anxiety—and she has maximum-high levels at the prospect of sixth grade with its cliques and mean girls. Lots is changing in the white girl’s life: her dad has moved to Arizona and her mom is sad; her one-year-older brother, Ryan, once her friend, is now her tormentor; and she is beginning to get butterflies around boys. Kaylan and her best friend, Ari, white and Jewish, create a list, ranging from getting detention and makeovers to first kisses and sabotaging Ryan. When Ari connects with friends from Hebrew school and summer camp, the two BFFs fight. Kaylan’s not-quite-teen first-person voice perfectly captures the horrors of starting at a new school, from the prospect of eating alone in the cafeteria to the awkwardness of meeting a new neighbor boy, biracial (black/white) Jason. Jason supplies most of the book’s diversity; one of the indistinguishable lunch-table friends mentions being Korean but is undeveloped as a character. As is typical for the genre, Kaylan matures and learns to cope with unpredictability, even participating in the talent show as the fastest clementine peeler in school.

Yet another novel about dreading middle school, this breezy beach read is well-done but offers little new. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-241174-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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Reads like a grown-up’s over-the-top effort to peddle a set of kid-friendly premises—a notion that worked for the author’s...

THE CHRISTMASAURUS

A boy asks Santa for a dinosaur and gets a life-changing experience.

Cribbing freely from any number of classic Christmas stories and films, musician/vlogger Fletcher places his 10-year-old protagonist, William, who uses a wheelchair, at the head of an all-white human cast that features his widowed dad, a girl bully, and a maniacal hunter—plus a dinosaur newly hatched from an egg discovered in the North Pole’s ice by Santa’s elves. Having stowed away on Santa’s sleigh, Christmasaurus meets and bonds with William on Christmas Eve, then, fueled by the power of a child’s belief, flies the lad to the North Pole (“It’s somewhere between Imagination and Make-Believe”) for a meeting with the jolly toymaker himself. Upon his return William gets to see the hunter (who turns out to be his uncle) gun down his dad (who survives), blast a plush dinosaur toy to bits, and then with a poster-sized “CRUNCH! GULP!” go down Christmasaurus’ hatch. In the meantime (emphasis on “mean”), after William spots his previously vicious tormenter, Brenda Payne, crying in the bushes, he forgives trespasses that in real life would have had her arrested and confined long ago. Seemingly just for laffs, the author tosses in doggerel-speaking elves (“ ‘If it’s a girl, can we call her Ginny?’ / ‘I think it’s a boy! Look, he’s got a thingy!’ ”) and closes with further lyrics and a list of 10 (secular) things to love about Christmas. Devries adds sugary illustrations or spot art to nearly every spread.

Reads like a grown-up’s over-the-top effort to peddle a set of kid-friendly premises—a notion that worked for the author’s The Dinosaur That Pooped a Planet (2017), but not here. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7330-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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