The author of What a Truly Cool World (1999) twangs his silly bone again, producing six fables that are well south of serious, though carrying kernels of truth. Several are "lost and found" tales, as in "Ellen the Eagle Finds Her Place in the World," modeling for the government—because she's afraid of heights. There's Bernard the bee, who unexpectedly finds true love even though he's lost his buzz, and "Anna the Angry Ant," who finds herself with a permanent stomach ache after losing her temper and swallowing an anaconda. Chollat makes her US debut with a set of stylized, postmodern illustrations whose bright hues are picked up by colored words or lines in the facing text. Lester's distinctive way with words is fully in evidence here—“What would a bee be without a buzz? My goodness! A bee without a buzz would be a been. A bee without a buzz would be a used-to-be bee who was now a been. So Bernard buzzed his buzz a couple of times and was happy to see that his buzz was as buzzy as it always was"—and he closes each tale with a double moral: "1. You are what you think you are and not what others think you aren't. 2. When you're in Vermont, WATCH OUT FOR THE ALLIGATOR." There's a lot of text on these oversized pages, much of it asking for a sophisticated comprehension. So the format is deceptively young-looking and might throw off the child who could understand the jokes. Readers who find Aesop's fables stodgy and Jon Scieszka's incomprehensible might want to have a go at these. (Illustrated fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-590-48913-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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Formula horror from the 1990s still feels formulaic today.


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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