THE SEVENTH LEVEL

At Lauer Middle School, an invitation to join “The Legend,” a supersecret group that plans community-service projects, is the most exciting honor imaginable. Seventh grader Travis Raines isn’t particularly brainy; he excels at getting into innocent trouble. He’s also pretty good at getting out of it. When a shiny blue envelope appears in his locker with a brainteaser and a set of rules, Travis can’t believe The Legend wants him. As usual, he ends up getting in his own way and runs afoul of the vice-principal in charge of discipline. Can he follow all the rules while navigating the seven levels of induction into The Legend and find out who keeps trying to get him in deeper trouble? Feldman’s second puzzlecentric effort is a mixed bag at best (The Gollywhopper Games, 2008). The mostly dull plot hangs on coincidence and isn’t saved by the seemingly random puzzles, some of which are anything but puzzling. Moreover, Travis’s distracting, vigorous and entirely un–seventh grader–like use of the word “oaf” defies credibility. Give your brainteaser fans Carey Benedict’s The Unknowns (2009) instead. (Mystery. 8-11)

Pub Date: June 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-195105-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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The book is a cute, but rather standard offering from Avi (Tom, Babette, and Simon, p. 776, etc.).

POPPY

From the Poppy series , Vol. 3

An adolescent mouse named Poppy is off on a romantic tryst with her rebel boyfriend when they are attacked by Mr. Ocax, the owl who rules over the area.

He kills the boyfriend, but Poppy escapes and Mr. Ocax vows to catch her. Mr. Ocax has convinced all the mice that he is their protector when, in fact, he preys on them mercilessly. When the mice ask his permission to move to a new house, he refuses, blaming Poppy for his decision. Poppy suspects that there is another reason Mr. Ocax doesn't want them to move and investigates to clear her name. With the help of a prickly old porcupine and her quick wits, Poppy defeats her nemesis and her own fears, saving her family in the bargain. 

The book is a cute, but rather standard offering from Avi (Tom, Babette, and Simon, p. 776, etc.). (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-531-09483-9

Page Count: 147

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1995

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