TILL TOMORROW

It’s the summer of 1961, and the tensions in divided Berlin are leading to fears of World War III. For Terrence O’Brien, the 12-year-old son of an American army officer, the anxiety and unease become part of his daily life when his father is assigned to a base near Verdun, France. O.B., as he is called, had enjoyed life in Boston where he had friends, grandparents, and baseball. Now, uprooted one more time, he has to adjust to life in an insular French town where people must still walk carefully to avoid the thousands of live mines left unexploded in the WWI battlefield. O.B.’s parents are supportive and gently encourage him to try out for the army’s little-league baseball team, but he doesn’t make the cut. The army brats his age, led by Cannonball (so named for his spectacular pool dives), are all on the team and O.B. wants to be part of their group. At the same time, he is drawn to a local French boy named Claude, whom Cannonball loves to ridicule. Claude is musical and doesn’t like baseball. The inner conflict that besets O.B.—wanting to fit in with the American kids and really liking Claude—drives this gentle story. O.B. chickens out of entering a church to hear Claude’s recital because Cannonball and the other boys are nearby. But in a dramatic climax, it is quiet Claude whose courage and sensibility saves the lives of the American boys who have wandered dangerously close to the battlefield. Donahue (An Island Far from Home, not reviewed) warmly conveys a feeling for life on the base and in France at this time. O.B. is realistic and appealing in that he is not always strong enough to face ridicule and exclusion from Cannonball and his group. As Claude puts it, friends say a demain—until tomorrow—and that is how these boys will spend their time together. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2001

ISBN: 0-374-37580-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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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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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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