Scieszka’s mission to provide quality books for boys succeeds again, though, of course, girls will be just as horrified as...


From the Guys Read series

The sixth volume in the Guys Read “Library of Great Reading” offers 10 stories to freak you out, “so scary you’d pee in your pants.”

“It’s just a bunch of stories. What could be so terrifying about that?” But then, what about the footless ghost in Dav Pilkey’s “My Ghost Story?” Or the fowler who chopped up Marleenken’s sisters in “The Blue-Bearded Bird-Man,” Adam Gidwitz’s spin on the classic Perrault tale? And what about such seemingly sensible advice as, “It is never, never, never, never, never okay to push your brother down a creepy, old, possibly bottomless well,” in Kelly Barnhill’s “Don’t Eat the Baby”? The stories are well-chosen and, unlike too many collections, consistently terrific, every story indeed scary and full of surprises. Strong leads serve many stories well, pulling readers in, perhaps against their own apprehensions. “Manifest,” by Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown begins, “If I’d known what suffering Thaddeus Rolf would bring me, I’d have put an end to my life right then. Instead, I took his,” and “I hear my brother’s terrified screams a block away,” opens Michael Buckley’s “Mr. Shocky.” One contribution, by Rita Williams-Garcia, was not available for review.

Scieszka’s mission to provide quality books for boys succeeds again, though, of course, girls will be just as horrified as the boys. (Anthology. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-238558-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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After Castro’s takeover, nine-year-old Julian and his older brothers are sent away by their fearful parents via “Operation Pedro Pan” to a camp in Miami for Cuban-exile children. Here he discovers that a ruthless bully has essentially been put in charge. Julian is quicker-witted than his brothers or anyone else ever imagined, though, and with his inherent smarts, developing maturity and the help of child and adult friends, he learns to navigate the dynamics of the camp and surroundings and grows from the former baby of the family to independence and self-confidence. A daring rescue mission at the end of the novel will have readers rooting for Julian even as it opens his family’s eyes to his courage and resourcefulness. This autobiographical novel is a well-meaning, fast-paced and often exciting read, though at times the writing feels choppy. It will introduce readers to a not-so-distant period whose echoes are still felt today and inspire admiration for young people who had to be brave despite frightening and lonely odds. (Historical fiction. 9-12)


Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59643-168-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs.


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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