In the end, even home-schooled, Catholic readers like Carrie will likely be turned off by the heavy-handed, didactic...

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THE LOCKET'S SECRET

Having suffered a tragic loss and been forced to leave behind her best friend when her family moves from Washington to Wisconsin seeking a fresh start, home-schooled Carrie retreats into a fantasy world in which her alter ego, Princess Caritas, embarks on a dangerous journey to save her family from an evil mercenary.

Though the premise of Heyne’s first middle-grade novel is promising, offering readers a story weaving together threads of Carrie’s real life with her escapist daydreams, the novel ultimately falls flat. The fantastical Caritas is a much more appealing character than Carrie, who spends most of the novel moping and reluctantly interacting with her family and new acquaintances. Though her grief is perfectly understandable, her self-imposed isolation combines with her tepid expression of her own emotions to make it difficult for readers to invest themselves in her journey. While readers may believe that Caritas’ mission is somehow an extension of Carrie’s own plight, the connection between fantasy and reality is disappointingly weak. The juxtaposition fails to offer them any meaningful insight into Carrie’s quest to make peace with her loss or her new circumstances.

In the end, even home-schooled, Catholic readers like Carrie will likely be turned off by the heavy-handed, didactic narrative. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8198-7484-9

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Pauline Teen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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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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SWINDLE

From the Swindle series , Vol. 1

Eleven-year-old Griffin Bing is “the man with the plan.” If something needs doing, Griffin carefully plans a fix and his best friend Ben usually gets roped in as assistant. When the town council ignores his plan for a skate park on the grounds of the soon-to-be demolished Rockford House, Griffin plans a camp-out in the house. While there, he discovers a rare Babe Ruth baseball card. His family’s money worries are suddenly a thing of the past, until unscrupulous collectables dealer S. Wendell Palomino swindles him. Griffin and Ben plan to snatch the card back with a little help. Pet-lover Savannah whispers the blood-thirsty Doberman. Rock-climber “Pitch” takes care of scaling the house. Budding-actor Logan distracts the nosy neighbor. Computer-expert Melissa hacks Palomino’s e-mail and the house alarm. Little goes according to plan, but everything turns out all right in this improbable but fun romp by the prolific and always entertaining Korman. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-439-90344-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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