An imaginative, if not particularly original, YA adventure.

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WIZDOM AND PANDORA

THE QUEST FOR THE BLOOD JEWEL

The fast-paced first installment of a magical YA fantasy series.

Eleven-year-old Wizdom isn’t like the other kids in his grade. Sure, he likes hanging out with his best friend, Chris, dissecting frogs in biology class and solving riddles. But Wizdom’s unusual name is just the tip of oddness: His ethereal-looking adoptive mother is evasive about his birth parents, his equally beautiful and ethereal-looking aunt seems to be able to appear and disappear at will, he can see auras, and two school bullies find themselves at the mercy of mysterious forces when they mess with Wizdom and Chris. Lately, Wizdom has also been having an especially vivid dream in which he finds himself in a dark, cavernous throne room ornamented with jewels, gold and sculptures of dragons. Hiding from the bullies one afternoon, Wizdom discovers a hidden passage—accessible only by solving a riddle—that leads to the throne room from his dream. This time, however, Lord Rilien of the Land of Maldor is there to greet him. Far from being a normal kid, Wizdom turns out to be Wizdom Winthrop III, the “third son of the third son” of Maldor, and he has a great, dangerous quest ahead of him. When he meets Pandora, Lord Rilien’s pretty and smart granddaughter, things get even more confusing and complicated for Wizdom, even without the addition of magic. In blending adventure with emotional growth, author Woodard captures the moment when the wonder of childhood meets the complexities of adulthood. The props here are nothing new—dragons, ancient symbols, magical jewels, goblins—but YA readers will delight in both the wit and gravity displayed by the two protagonists. Dialogue is a bit stilted, yet the packed plot, myriad characters and classic fantasy tropes will keep younger readers engaged and inspired.

An imaginative, if not particularly original, YA adventure.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2013

ISBN: 978-1468538014

Page Count: 306

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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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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