A solid-enough sequel that slips here and there but leaves readers’ goodwill intact.

THE SLEEPWALKER TONIC

From the Nightmares! series , Vol. 2

Charlie Laird faces a dire threat to the Netherworld and the Waking World.

Having conquered his fears of the Netherworld (Nightmares!, 2014), Charlie has little to worry about besides a summer job and his growing attraction to his best girl friend, Paige. But things in Cypress Creek never stay quiet for long. A mysterious tonic is making residents in the next town over, Orville Falls, walk the Earth like mindless zombies. The solution lies somewhere between the Waking World and the Netherworld, and Charlie, his stepmother, and his little brother, Jack, set out to solve the problem. The authors dutifully shine a light on some of the murky waters left over from the series opener, and this book’s big villain is introduced in a nifty way. Unfortunately the main threat of the novel is a bit of a bust. The zombielike creatures just aren't a very interesting threat. These books are so concerned with the internal lives of its characters that an opponent that has nothing going on emotionally falls flat. Readers will be far more involved with Charlie and Jack's sibling rivalry or Charlie's growing fondness for his stepmother than the zombie element, which is a bit of a drag by comparison. Still, the story finishes strong, wrapping up the central mystery with a smart resolution and supplying a great tease for the next installment. This second installment may be doing little more than killing time, but at least it kills time effectively.

A solid-enough sequel that slips here and there but leaves readers’ goodwill intact. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-74427-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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90 MILES TO HAVANA

After Castro’s takeover, nine-year-old Julian and his older brothers are sent away by their fearful parents via “Operation Pedro Pan” to a camp in Miami for Cuban-exile children. Here he discovers that a ruthless bully has essentially been put in charge. Julian is quicker-witted than his brothers or anyone else ever imagined, though, and with his inherent smarts, developing maturity and the help of child and adult friends, he learns to navigate the dynamics of the camp and surroundings and grows from the former baby of the family to independence and self-confidence. A daring rescue mission at the end of the novel will have readers rooting for Julian even as it opens his family’s eyes to his courage and resourcefulness. This autobiographical novel is a well-meaning, fast-paced and often exciting read, though at times the writing feels choppy. It will introduce readers to a not-so-distant period whose echoes are still felt today and inspire admiration for young people who had to be brave despite frightening and lonely odds. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

 

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59643-168-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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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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