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

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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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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A visually striking, compelling recollection.

FROM THE TOPS OF THE TREES

The author recounts a formative childhood experience that continues to inspire her today.

Born to Hmong refugees, Kalia has only ever known the confines of the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand. Even while playing with her cousins, reminders of the hardships of their life are always present. She overhears the aunties sharing their uncertainty and fear of the future. They are a people with no home country and are still trying to find peace. Kalia asks her father why they live behind a gate and wonders what lies beyond the fences that surround the camp. The next day they climb a tall tree, and he shows her the vast expanse around them, from familiar camp landmarks to distant mountains “where the sky meets earth.” This story of resilience and generational hope is told in an expressive, straightforward narrative style. The simplicity of the text adds a level of poignancy that moves readers to reflection. The layered and heavily textured illustrations complement the text while highlighting the humanity of the refugees and providing a quiet dignity to camp life. The militarylike color palette of olive greens, golden yellows, and rich browns reinforces the guarded atmosphere but also represents the transitional period from winter to spring, a time ripe with anticipation and promise.

A visually striking, compelling recollection. (author's note, glossary, map.) (Picture book/memoir. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8130-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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This revenger’s comedy, dotted with references to classic plays and philosophical concepts, will be a joy for pranksters and...

THE TERRIBLE TWO GET WORSE

From the Terrible Two series , Vol. 2

When pranking perfection meets the seemingly unprankable foe, who gets the last laugh?

Terrible Two Niles and Miles have been merrily pranking their favorite targets, Principal Barkin and his dim, loathsome son Josh, at school and in town all autumn long. Fed up with the plague of pranks, former Principal Barkin (father of the current one) stages a coup d’état at a school board meeting and takes back his old job. This new-old Principal Barkin is draconian in his control of the school. He hangs a sign counting the days since the last prank…which, since he avows there is no prank if no one reacts (and he never reacts), means there have been no pranks. Miles and Niles despair as one after another of their complex, devious plots are ignored. School becomes unbearable until they seek help from a most unlikely source. Can three succeed where two have failed? John and Barnett’s sophomore effort is as much fun as series opener The Terrible Two (2015). The boys’ history as rivals and their home lives barely receive mention here, so the first volume is a must-read—no hardship. Cornell’s line drawings add to the goofy, deadpan experience.

This revenger’s comedy, dotted with references to classic plays and philosophical concepts, will be a joy for pranksters and seekers of a good-hearted laugh. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4197-1680-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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