An amusing, highly readable book about the perils of being 12 in a snake-eat-snake world.

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HOW TO OUTRUN A CROCODILE WHEN YOUR SHOES ARE UNTIED

From the My Life Is a Zoo series , Vol. 1

Living in a zoo wouldn’t be so bad if the whole school didn’t know about it.

Middle school is tough under the best of circumstances, and 12-year-old Ana certainly isn’t living under those. Her best friend has moved to New Zealand, her parents have moved the whole family to a zoo, and her world-famous grandfather is visiting, which means she’s required to appear on television with him. For a shy person, things can’t get much worse. But they do! The social bullies get word of her pending moment in the spotlight and use the opportunity to score extra material for torment. Luckily, Ana finds new friends who help her discover her true seventh-grade self and who even help with the seemingly impossible: passing her math finals. Following in the tradition of Judy Blume and Paula Danziger, debut author Keating delivers a fun-filled, pitch-perfect book about one of the most fraught stages of life. Humor, poignancy and fascinating zoological facts infuse the narrative with a warm conversational tone that welcomes readers into the drama that is middle school. The dollop of romance is refreshingly appropriate for middle school readers, and the angst Ana feels over the idea of performing in front of a crowd will touch plenty of sympathetic introverts.

An amusing, highly readable book about the perils of being 12 in a snake-eat-snake world. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4022-9755-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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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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SWINDLE

From the Swindle series , Vol. 1

Eleven-year-old Griffin Bing is “the man with the plan.” If something needs doing, Griffin carefully plans a fix and his best friend Ben usually gets roped in as assistant. When the town council ignores his plan for a skate park on the grounds of the soon-to-be demolished Rockford House, Griffin plans a camp-out in the house. While there, he discovers a rare Babe Ruth baseball card. His family’s money worries are suddenly a thing of the past, until unscrupulous collectables dealer S. Wendell Palomino swindles him. Griffin and Ben plan to snatch the card back with a little help. Pet-lover Savannah whispers the blood-thirsty Doberman. Rock-climber “Pitch” takes care of scaling the house. Budding-actor Logan distracts the nosy neighbor. Computer-expert Melissa hacks Palomino’s e-mail and the house alarm. Little goes according to plan, but everything turns out all right in this improbable but fun romp by the prolific and always entertaining Korman. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-439-90344-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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