A HOUSE DIVIDED

THE LIVES OF ULYSSES S. GRANT AND ROBERT E. LEE

Writing a joint biography of the two outstanding commanders of the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, is of course attractive. Southern gentleman Lee and drunken maverick Grant were such contrasting characters that examining their lives side by side can only amaze the Civil War novice. The only potential difficulty is in arranging the story so that it functions as a complete narrative—a tricky feat considering that Lee's and Grant's lives only intersected briefly in 1846, during the Mexican War, before they clashed decisively on the battlefield in 1864. But Archer (Rage in the Streets, p. 626, etc.) pulls off a comprehensive history of these two men, while at the same time presenting a clear account of the Civil War. He follows Lee, from his poor but aristocratic upbringing and spectacular West Point years through his fine military career, simultaneously tracking Grant's vastly different childhood, his near failure at West Point, and his forced resignation from the army after the Mexican War as the result of alcoholism. Throughout his life, Lee distinguished himself as a man of honor, a gentleman, and a scholar, while Grant failed in everything he attempted except warfare. At Appomattox, however, Lee surrendered his army to his scruffy little opponent. Grant had won. A superb story well told. (Bibliography; index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-590-48325-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1994

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With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating...

FRINDLE

Nicholas is a bright boy who likes to make trouble at school, creatively. 

When he decides to torment his fifth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Granger (who is just as smart as he is), by getting everyone in the class to replace the word "pen'' with "frindle,'' he unleashes a series of events that rapidly spins out of control. If there's any justice in the world, Clements (Temple Cat, 1995, etc.) may have something of a classic on his hands. By turns amusing and adroit, this first novel is also utterly satisfying. The chess-like sparring between the gifted Nicholas and his crafty teacher is enthralling, while Mrs. Granger is that rarest of the breed: a teacher the children fear and complain about for the school year, and love and respect forever after. 

With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating tale—one to press upon children, and one they'll be passing among themselves. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-689-80669-8

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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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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