For readers who need their endings safe.

ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE

From the Classics series

The myth of the power of music and love is retold for middle-graders with nuanced beauty but marred by a happy epilogue.

The veteran storytellers who reworked this story have made a creditable and even beautiful version, using language that is clear and stately. Orpheus is a musician who can make even the trees dance. A bad omen at his wedding is fulfilled when, the next day, his bride, Eurydice, goes for a walk at dawn and is felled by a snake bite. Orpheus follows her down into the underworld, and his music so moves Persephone and her husband, Hades, that the god of the underworld allows Eurydice to return to life. Orpheus must not look back until they reach the world of the living. Alas, she trips, he turns to help her, and she is gone. Orpheus pours out his grief in music until the jealous god Dionysius inflames a group of women to hack Orpheus to pieces, although his head and his lyre continue to play and sing. In this version, Persephone restores memory to both Orpheus and Eurydice so they can spend the afterlife together—an interpolation that provides emotional relief but guts the story of its power. The rich, matte illustrations are done in a pleasing, patterned style that complements the vivid, never sensational telling.

For readers who need their endings safe. (pronunciation guide, bibliography, family tree of the Greek gods, Olympians) (Mythology. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-84686-784-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Barefoot Books

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid.

JAKE THE FAKE KEEPS IT REAL

From the Jake the Fake series , Vol. 1

Black sixth-grader Jake Liston can only play one song on the piano. He can’t read music very well, and he can’t improvise. So how did Jake get accepted to the Music and Art Academy? He faked it.

Alongside an eclectic group of academy classmates, and with advice from his best friend, Jake tries to fit in at a school where things like garbage sculpting and writing art reviews of bird poop splatter are the norm. All is well until Jake discovers that the end-of-the-semester talent show is only two weeks away, and Jake is short one very important thing…talent. Or is he? It’s up to Jake to either find the talent that lies within or embarrass himself in front of the entire school. Light and humorous, with Knight’s illustrations adding to the fun, Jake’s story will likely appeal to many middle-grade readers, especially those who might otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book. While the artsy antics may be over-the-top at times, this is a story about something that most preteens can relate to: the struggle to find your authentic self. And in a world filled with books about wanting to fit in with the athletically gifted supercliques, this novel unabashedly celebrates the artsy crowd in all of its quirky, creative glory.

A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-52351-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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