Heavy lifting, even for reflective sorts…but reassuring at heart.

READ REVIEW

A SERIOUS THOUGHT

A child comes closer to finding a place in the world after a night and a day of thoughts and observations.

This small-scale bildungsroman, newly translated by the author from the original Estonian, pairs spare lines of narrative to equally spare ink drawings featuring a solitary lad of decidedly introspective bent. One night he puts himself to bed, but instead of falling asleep he flashes on thoughts ranging from “dangerous” (joyriding with crocodiles in evening wear, one waving what’s perhaps a liquor bottle) to “frightening” (a menacing, wolfish silhouette). His thoughts then turn larger in scale until he sees himself as “but one little boy among many other children,” living separately on a tiny “marble” in space. Waking up puzzled and unsure, he goes for a walk and, absorbed in thought, gets lost. But after coming upon a hedgehog, an ant colony, and other diminutive creatures seemingly unbothered by their size, he reaches home at last with a lighter heart, no longer feeling “small or unimportant.” For all of the art’s simplicity there is a surreal quality to some scenes and details that gives the child’s imaginings an offbeat appeal. Moreover, his progress may resonate with contemplative readers feeling similarly powerless and insignificant. With the exception of one child who is filled in solid black, the few human figures in the illustrations are paper white.

Heavy lifting, even for reflective sorts…but reassuring at heart. (Picture book. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77306-229-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: tomorrow

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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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Formula horror from the 1990s still feels formulaic today.

GRAVE SECRETS

From the Deadtime Stories series , Vol. 1

The Deadtime Stories from the mid-1990s are rising again—this time in conjunction with a planned series of live-action TV-movies.

In this lightly edited reboot, preteen Amanda discovers an old doll buried in her backyard and shortly thereafter begins receiving ghostly messages written in sand or bathroom steam along the lines of “I want my baby back—now!” Then the doll disappears. Getting it back entails multiple encounters with Anna, the child ghost from whom it was stolen long ago, and the hostile, spooky old lady next door known to Amanda and friends as “Barnsey.” The shudders here are laboriously manufactured by contrived cliffhangers at each short chapter’s end, an obnoxious character who revels in sharing eerie rumors about Barnsey’s supposed witchy ways, nighttime expeditions into her yard and, particularly, with frequent screams: “And Kevin, who had been screaming his head off over Anna’s appearance, stopped screaming mid-scream the moment he saw Barnsey.” There’s no overt gore or violence, Anna fades away once she’s reunited with her doll and Barnsey, unsurprisingly, suddenly turns into a nice old lady.

Formula horror from the 1990s still feels formulaic today. (Horror. 9-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3065-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Starscape/Tom Doherty

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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