A cute and mildly amusing slobs-vs.-snobs tale.

DUNCES ROCK

From the Dunces series , Vol. 2

The Dunces return (Dunces Anonymous, 2009), and this time they’re battling their school’s decision to cut music and drama.

After Wilmot finds an electric guitar and decides to dedicate his life to rock-’n’-roll, his fellow Dunces take up the charge and conspire against Principal Hale, who recently cut the music and drama programs in favor of starting a hockey team. Josh infiltrates the team, while Magnolia’s histrionics take center stage, and Wang schemes in the background. The new entry in the Dunces’ saga is fluffy enough, providing adequate laughs and decent narrative drive. The author’s cartoonish world is a bit rough to get into at first, but once readers find their footing, the journey unfolds smoothly. The author is wise not to dwell too much on the arts-vs.-sports agenda, instead leaning heavily on witty banter among her characters and larger-than-life explosions of joy and friendship. Another wise decision is made when dealing with Principal Hale, who is painted not as evil or shortsighted but instead pompous and vain, making this less and less a sophisticated analysis of scholastic debate and more a well-intentioned romp.

A cute and mildly amusing slobs-vs.-snobs tale. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4598-0585-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Ideas abound, but when the focus shifts from Thomas' determination to take the measure of the house (literally and...

THE HOUSE OF DIES DREAR

Dies Drear? Ohio abolitionist, keeper of a key station on the Underground Railroad, bearer of a hypercharged name that is not even noted as odd. Which is odd: everything else has an elaborate explanation.

Unlike Zeely, Miss Hamilton's haunting first, this creates mystery only to reveal sleight-of-hand, creates a character who's larger than life only to reveal his double. Thirteen-year-old Thomas Small is fascinated, and afraid, of the huge, uncharted house his father, a specialist in Negro Civil War history, has purposefully rented. A strange pair of children, tiny Pesty and husky Mac Darrow, seem to tease him; old bearded Pluto, long-time caretaker and local legend, seems bent on scaring the Smalls away. But how can a lame old man run fast enough to catch Thomas from behind? what do the triangles affixed to their doors signify? who spread a sticky paste of foodstuffs over the kitchen? Pluto, accosted, disappears. . . into a cavern that was Dies Drear's treasure house of decorative art, his solace for the sequestered slaves. But Pluto is not, despite his nickname, the devil; neither is he alone; his actor-son has returned to help him stave off the greedy Darrows and the Smalls, if they should also be hostile to the house, the treasure, the tradition. Pluto as keeper of the flame would be more convincing without his, and his son's, histrionics, and without Pesty as a prodigy cherubim. There are some sharp observations of, and on, the Negro church historically and presently, and an aborted ideological debate regarding use of the Negro heritage.

Ideas abound, but when the focus shifts from Thomas' determination to take the measure of the house (literally and figuratively), the story becomes a charade. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 1968

ISBN: 1416914056

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1968

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A quick, agreeable caper, this may spark some discussion even as it entertains.

FINDING MIGHTY

Myla and Peter step into the path of a gang when they unite forces to find Peter’s runaway brother, Randall.

As they follow the graffiti tags that Randall has been painting in honor of the boys’ deceased father, they uncover a sinister history involving stolen diamonds, disappearances, and deaths. It started long ago when the boys’ grandmother, a diamond-cutter, partnered with the head of the gang. She was rumored to have hidden his diamonds before her suspicious death, leaving clues to their whereabouts. Now everyone is searching, including Randall. The duo’s collaboration is initially an unwilling one fraught with misunderstandings. Even after Peter and Myla bond over being the only people of color in an otherwise white school (Myla is Indian-American; mixed-race Peter is Indian, African-American, and white), Peter can’t believe the gang is after Myla. But Myla possesses a necklace that holds a clue. Alternating first-person chapters allow peeks into how Myla, Peter, and Randall unravel the story and decipher clues. Savvy readers will put the pieces together, too, although false leads and red herrings are cleverly interwoven. The action stumbles at times, but it takes place against the rich backdrops of gritty New York City and history-laden Dobbs Ferry and is made all the more colorful by references to graffiti art and parkour.

A quick, agreeable caper, this may spark some discussion even as it entertains. (Mystery. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2296-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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