BALONEY (HENRY P.)

It’s “Permanent Lifelong Detention” for Henry P. Baloney, unless the tardy alien can come up with “one very good and very believable excuse” for Miss Bugscuffle. Henry earnestly spins the tale of his near-disastrous trip to school: “I misplaced my trusty zimulis, then I . . . um . . . found it on my deski. But . . . someone had put my deski in a torakku.” The Math Curse (1995) team of Scieszka and Smith combine talents once again, this time to celebrate wordplay in its near-infinite variety. Henry’s story is peppered with words from such diverse sources as Estonian, French, and Inuktitut (there’s a “decoder” in the back). Each time a new word occurs for the first time, it is set off in yellow type—the trick is to decode it through illustrations (“zimulis” clearly applies to a standard-issue Quest pencil, number “ZZ”) and from context (“I jumped smack in the middle of a . . . razzo launch pad.”). Henry himself is an appealingly bug-eyed, freckle-faced green urchin who leaps, fast-talks, and erases his way through a retro-looking space-age world, learning the hard way the importance of linguistic accuracy when he forgets the Astrosus word for “thank you,” using instead the word for “doofbrain.” Clearly intending to do for words what the previous book did for numbers, the illustrations and narrative sizzle along in a madcap rush until the story is brought to an abrupt halt when the humorless Miss Bugscuffle decides to allow Henry to apply his talents to the day’s assignment of writing a tall tale. Carefully—if zanily—adhering to the “three-finger rule” (no more than three unfamiliar words per page), Henry P. Baloney’s story might go a long way toward convincing kids that learning to read is an adventure in itself. If only all pedagogy were this much fun. (Picture book. 6-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-670-89248-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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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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Funny and provocative.

TALLULAH THE TOOTH FAIRY CEO

A tooth-fairy mogul wrote the manual, but even the expert can be caught off guard.

Tallulah, CEO of Teeth Titans Inc., gives readers a sneak peek into her glamorous life. The wry narrative mimics the tone of many an inspirational biography, informing readers that Tallulah works hard to strike “a healthy balance between the three Ps: passion, purpose, and what pays.” From yoga to museum visits, Tallulah seems to have a full schedule, but she still makes time to hire and train tooth fairies for the entire world. Expert Tallulah has all the answers—or so she thinks until the night she gets a surprise from a little boy. Ballard has lost his tooth—literally—and leaves an explanatory note under his pillow in place of the missing item. This triggers an emergency board meeting that features remarkably realistic dialogue. Tom, a white man and the only board member who is not a woman of color, wears an #AllFairiesMatter T-shirt; his off-topic complaint about the lack of diversity makes an opening for important conversations with young readers. Tallulah is black and sports a voluminous purple Afro; Tom is the sole white character. Details in both Pizzoli’s text (Tallulah’s also the founder of the National Association for the Appreciation and Care of Primary Teeth, or NAACP-T) and Fabiani’s matte illustrations (a series of enormous, Warhol-like prints of Tallulah adorns her walls) will set adult readers chuckling.

Funny and provocative. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: July 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-30919-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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