Humor that works its own magic trick: disappearing from middle school shelves.

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PENNYBAKER SCHOOL IS HEADED FOR DISASTER

From the Pennybaker School series , Vol. 1

Sixth-grade magician Thomas Fallgrout has a troubled start in his new school, where unusual talents are the norm.

At the Pennybaker Hill Academy for the Uniquely Gifted, a bronze bust of a much-admired former teacher stands in the front hall, venerated by students and staff alike. Thomas calls the statue the “Heirmauser head of horror”—a sacrilege that makes him the likely suspect when it disappears from its shrine in the vestibule. Billed as the first of a series of books about middle schoolers whose talents range from talking to hedgehogs to playing the digeridoo, this is nonstop middle-grade humor—spitball wars, food fights, a skateboarding grandmother, and all. Thomas’ first-person narrative is full of imagined horrible punishments for Louis XIV, inventor of the necktie he has to wear as part of his school uniform, and other flights of his imagination. Occasionally the voice is more adult than sixth-grade, but the absurdity remains. Beyond the mystery of the stolen bust, there are familiar new-in-school and friendship themes. Thomas thinks his new neighbor Chip Mason is “capital-‘W’ weird,” but, over time, Chip becomes the friend Thomas sorely needs. Kissi’s black-and-white illustrations show Thomas as white and Chip as black; final art not seen.

Humor that works its own magic trick: disappearing from middle school shelves. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68119-174-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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