A less-is-more philosophy might have been employed to better advantage with only one style of illustration and less emphasis...

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SCHOOL FOR PRINCES

STORIES FROM THE PANCHATANTRA

Employing a series of newly created stories in combination with five traditional tales to reveal the Panchatantra’s themes, the author hopes to entice children to read these ancient Indian fables.

Three arrogant princes change their tune in six short months as a sage uses stories to teach them the art of ruling. These fables have been introduced to people of all classes for generations to spread ideas of wisdom, kindness, friendship and unity, and self-control, while still awakening listeners to the possibility of treachery from old enemies. Didactic in nature, the stories still hold up, but contemporary listeners and readers may be put off by the pompous language of “The Preamble: the Princes Who Wouldn’t Learn” and the first frame story, “The Fighter Kite.” They will be caught up in the stories as the doves are “Caught in the Fowler’s Net,” the first fable retold. Gavin gives an introduction to the Panchatantra, but it's too bad she did not provide sources so interested readers could search out tales not included here. The illustrations take two forms: ethereal mixed-media pictures that combine pencil, oil pastels, acrylic and Photoshop in the frame stories and looser, simpler, bolder images of the animals in the fables.

A less-is-more philosophy might have been employed to better advantage with only one style of illustration and less emphasis on the stories about the princes, but the fables remain eminently discussable.   (Folklore. 8-11)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-84507-990-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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The potential strength of this presentation would be as a read-aloud to grade-schoolers, who would, no doubt, enjoy the...

SIR SETH THISTLETHWAITE AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CAVES

From the Sir Seth Thistlethwaite series , Vol. 2

Two imaginative 10-year-old boys embark on a disbelief-suspending adventure in this second of a series.

Sir Seth, Sir Ollie and Seth’s “steed,” Shasta (his dog in a realer world), discover Puddlewater Pond is draining down into a netherworld, the Queendom of Claire, populated by short Khaboumians, the evil ogre Ooz, his tree-eating dinosaur and some almost-flying umbies. These creatures are coming into conflict, creating confusion, consternation and complete chaos.  Most of the narrative consists of frequent alliteration, puns and embedded rhyming words that don’t scan into poetry. “Sir Ollie stuttered with surprise, his eyes the size of banana cream pies,” for example. A certain amount of this is amusing; after several pages, it simply becomes unbecomingly uneven, creating a nearly noxious narrative. Some of the concepts are strangely Seuss-like: The Umbies travel in pairs, under-umbies under over-umbies that use their apparently otherwise useless wings to provide shade for their under-umbies. Chuggamugga bugs, like mugs with legs, carry water for wayward desert wanderers. While the pace of the plot careens, its superficiality is strangely startling. Cartoonish black-and-white illustrations add an amusing aura to a plethora of pages.

The potential strength of this presentation would be as a read-aloud to grade-schoolers, who would, no doubt, enjoy the difficulties the adult reader would encounter, wading through all the wacky words. (Fantasy. 8-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-926818-94-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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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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