WHERE HEROES HIDE

Ten-year-old Junior’s summer vacation promises to be as quiet as American suburbia was in 1956. He’s trying to save money for a bike while enjoying outings with his friends, and hoping that his father will stay in a good mood. Junior’s father is a WWII veteran who is carrying the unresolved burden of a traumatic wartime experience. He vents his anger against one of his son’s friends who has polio by forbidding his son to play with him. Never mind that Junior has had his vaccine and that the polio is no longer contagious. When he comes home early from work one day and finds the boys together in the backyard, his anger escalates into violence. Only when Junior accidentally uncovers a box with his father’s war mementos, including a Silver Star, does Dad begin to talk about the death of a close friend in a fiery plane crash. It takes a fire in the town and Dad’s dramatic rescue of a boy trapped on a second-floor porch to cure the post-traumatic stress disorder. It is difficult to accept that this father is so violently intolerant of polio and is able to undergo so quick a cure for his wartime stress. There have not been children’s stories dealing with this degree of PTSD in WWII vets. Perhaps another one will be more successful. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: May 9, 2002

ISBN: 0-374-33057-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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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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EAGLE SONG

A rare venture into contemporary fiction for Bruchac (The Circle of Thanks, p. 1529, etc.), this disappointing tale of a young Mohawk transplanted to Brooklyn, N.Y., is overstuffed with plotlines, lectures, and cultural information. Danny Bigtree gets jeers, or the cold shoulder, from his fourth-grade classmates, until his ironworker father sits him down to relate—at length- -the story of the great Mohawk peacemaker Aionwahta (Hiawatha), then comes to school to talk about the Iroquois Confederacy and its influence on our country's Founding Fathers. Later, Danny's refusal to tattle when Tyrone, the worst of his tormenters, accidentally hits him in the face with a basketball breaks the ice for good. Two sketchy subplots: Danny runs into an old Seminole friend, who, evidently due to parental neglect, has joined a gang; after dreaming of an eagle falling from a tree, Danny learns that his father has been injured in a construction- site accident. A worthy, well-written novella—but readers cannot be moved by a story that pulls them in so many different directions. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8037-1918-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996

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