NOT ONE DAMSEL IN DISTRESS

WORLD FOLKTALES FOR STRONG GIRLS

In her introduction, the author states that the 13 stories in this book “have always been around, hidden away in the back storeroom of folklore.” No more. Yolen has managed to present these legends and folktales as originally told, with their spunky, canny, and courageous girls and women heroes as feisty and funny as they were to the people of their time. The tales come from all over the world; some of their protagonists are well-known, such as Greece’s Atalanta the Huntress, but many others have been either lost over time or distorted in one way or another to make them palatable to readers who refused to recognize that women were fully capable human beings. There’s Nana Miriam of Niger, who uses the powerful potions in her juju bag to save her father from a vicious hippopotamus. Or China’s Li Chi, who refuses to be sacrificed to the serpent who has terrorized her village and instead uses her wits, a snake-hunting dog, and a sharp sword to slay the creature. Then there’s England’s Molly Whuppie, who serves her king by outwitting a giant and ends up a queen, in a rollickingly funny story that’s only equaled by the Ozark tale of Pretty Penny, who uses her wits to save her father’s money and make a lot more from the highway thief who tries to rob her. There are many more, all of them splendidly told by an author who can not only spin a mean folktale, but makes some nice subtle points in doing so. The book is strengthened even more by Yolen’s extensive “Notes on the Stories” and an excellent bibliography for those who want more, making it a useful reference tool for classroom or library. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-15-202047-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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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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With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating...

FRINDLE

Nicholas is a bright boy who likes to make trouble at school, creatively. 

When he decides to torment his fifth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Granger (who is just as smart as he is), by getting everyone in the class to replace the word "pen'' with "frindle,'' he unleashes a series of events that rapidly spins out of control. If there's any justice in the world, Clements (Temple Cat, 1995, etc.) may have something of a classic on his hands. By turns amusing and adroit, this first novel is also utterly satisfying. The chess-like sparring between the gifted Nicholas and his crafty teacher is enthralling, while Mrs. Granger is that rarest of the breed: a teacher the children fear and complain about for the school year, and love and respect forever after. 

With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating tale—one to press upon children, and one they'll be passing among themselves. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-689-80669-8

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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