HELLO? IS ANYBODY THERE?

More than a little reminiscent of The Little Prince, with a touch of Louis Slobodkin’s classic Space Ship Under the Apple Tree, this is a dialogue between a visitor from space and an eight-year-old boy waiting at home while his mother is in the hospital giving birth; it links informal ink drawings with a series of ingenuous philosophical ruminations and explanations of natural processes. Joe is alone when a flash of light leaves Mika, a diminutive Mumbo from planet Eljo, hanging by his heels in the apple tree. Very like a toddler in appearance, clothing (pajamas), and habit of sucking his thumb when thinking, Mika views the world with wide-eyed wonder, asking deceptively simple questions (“If [a cat] can’t talk, does that mean it can’t think?”), learning from Joe about dinosaurs, fish, and the history of life on Earth, teaching him that nothing is “ordinary,” and that there are great forces at work in the universe. The illustrator places small human, alien, and animal figures on the surfaces of tiny worlds, or within and around lines of text; Mika and Joe sit cozily together on rock and rooftop, until Mika is replaced at the end by Michael, Joe’s new brother. Gaarder (Sophie’s World, 1994) keeps the tone light, but brings up plenty of worthwhile, often knotty ideas. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-374-32948-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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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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The book is a cute, but rather standard offering from Avi (Tom, Babette, and Simon, p. 776, etc.).

POPPY

From the Poppy series , Vol. 3

An adolescent mouse named Poppy is off on a romantic tryst with her rebel boyfriend when they are attacked by Mr. Ocax, the owl who rules over the area.

He kills the boyfriend, but Poppy escapes and Mr. Ocax vows to catch her. Mr. Ocax has convinced all the mice that he is their protector when, in fact, he preys on them mercilessly. When the mice ask his permission to move to a new house, he refuses, blaming Poppy for his decision. Poppy suspects that there is another reason Mr. Ocax doesn't want them to move and investigates to clear her name. With the help of a prickly old porcupine and her quick wits, Poppy defeats her nemesis and her own fears, saving her family in the bargain. 

The book is a cute, but rather standard offering from Avi (Tom, Babette, and Simon, p. 776, etc.). (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-531-09483-9

Page Count: 147

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1995

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