IT'S ALL GREEK TO ME

Scieszka and Lane’s intrepid heroes of The Time Warp Trio are once again up to their necks in very silly historical circumstances. Joe, Fred, and Sam are horsing around during their school play—which they wrote themselves—about the ancient deities of Greece. When a cardboard thunderbolt accidently hits the magic blue book stashed in Joe’s backpack, the three boys are transported back to ancient Greece—or so they think. When they meet some of the wisecracking gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus, they realize they’ve been transported to the fictionalized Greece of their play, complete with dialogue they wrote using “The Book of Snappy Insults.” While flinging around backhanded compliments with Hera (who’s not bad on the uptake), the three time travelers try to locate their blue book of magic so they can return home. Instead, they end up as that night’s entertainment for the gods. The opening jokes fall flat, but then Joe comes up with some last-minute parlor tricks. Just when everything’s going well, a pack of Greek monsters arrives, and the mountain top threatens to become a battlefield. The wordplay is still fast and funny, and fans of the series will not mind that the deities have become sort of stock types; the abundance of goofy Groucho Marx-style zingers will keep everyone else smiling. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-670-88596-7

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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RIVER FRIENDLY, RIVER WILD

Kurtz (I’m Sorry, Almira Ann, 1999, etc.) turns personal disaster into a universally affecting book about the 1997 flooding of the Red River in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Pictures and text catapult readers into the experience of loss when a river swells higher than anyone could have imagined and floods a town. Fleeing her home, the narrator leaves her cat behind and spends much of the flood’s aftermath missing her “motor-stomach Kiwi cat” as her family sleeps on the shelter’s hard cots; knows that “someday I’ll do the same for someone else” as she accepts provisions others have anonymously donated and delivered; sifts through the family’s sodden Christmas box to find mostly useless evidence of happy memories; and sees the unutterable mess and loss of all that is home, which will finally, ironically, be washed away by a new, life-saving dike. The beautifully articulate poems chronicle as well the loss of a good neighborhood, one where people save a cat because they can and it’s a good thing to do, just as they would, in happier times, have loaned a cup of sugar. Without sentimentality, the book speaks of loss as elemental as the force bringing it and of survival of equal magnitude. Brennan’s stylish oils, sometimes framed on a page, sometimes in full-bleed pages or spreads, capture and express this blend of specific universality. A book that belongs on every shelf in buildings up and down the country’s riverways. (Picture book/poetry. 5-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-689-82049-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

INFINITE COUNTRY

A 15-year-old girl in Colombia, doing time in a remote detention center, orchestrates a jail break and tries to get home.

"People say drugs and alcohol are the greatest and most persuasive narcotics—the elements most likely to ruin a life. They're wrong. It's love." As the U.S. recovers from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from the misery of separations on the border, from both the idea and the reality of a wall around the United States, Engel's vital story of a divided Colombian family is a book we need to read. Weaving Andean myth and natural symbolism into her narrative—condors signify mating for life, jaguars revenge; the embattled Colombians are "a singed species of birds without feathers who can still fly"; children born in one country and raised in another are "repotted flowers, creatures forced to live in the wrong habitat"—she follows Talia, the youngest child, on a complex journey. Having committed a violent crime not long before she was scheduled to leave her father in Bogotá to join her mother and siblings in New Jersey, she winds up in a horrible Catholic juvie from which she must escape in order to make her plane. Hence the book's wonderful first sentence: "It was her idea to tie up the nun." Talia's cross-country journey is interwoven with the story of her parents' early romance, their migration to the United States, her father's deportation, her grandmother's death, the struggle to reunite. In the latter third of the book, surprising narrative shifts are made to include the voices of Talia's siblings, raised in the U.S. This provides interesting new perspectives, but it is a little awkward to break the fourth wall so late in the book. Attention, TV and movie people: This story is made for the screen.

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982159-46-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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THE NUTQUACKER

Auch (Eggs Mark the Spot, 1996, etc.) offers up an audacious tale starring a unusual band of anthropomorphic creatures. Clara, a young farm duck about to experience her first winter, becomes insatiably curious when she hears the other barnyard animals discussing Christmas. Impatient and determined to solve the mystery surrounding this event, she sets out on her own, which leads to a series of funny encounters, mistaken identities, and even some danger. After a narrow escape from a hungry fox, Clara returns home to find the holiday festivities in full swing. Amidst cows and sheep in tutus, Clara learns that Christmas is about being surrounded by loved ones. Auch’s illustrations provide droll counterpoints to the text: Clara’s mountain at the top of the world is really a haystack in a field, the ferocious beast with large eyes is an abandoned farm vehicle, etc. Those who revel in Auch’s unique brand of quips, jests, and irreverent humor will not be disappointed, and newcomers will just laugh themselves silly. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1999

ISBN: 0-8234-1524-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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