A deft mix of chills and chuckles, not quite as sideways as Wayside School but in the same district.

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A FRIENDLY TOWN THAT'S ALMOST ALWAYS BY THE OCEAN!

From the Secrets of Topsea series , Vol. 1

A fifth-grader struggles to fit in after he and his recently widowed mother move to a decidedly oddball new town.

As if the seemingly infinite pier, the lighthouse in the middle of town, and the beach teeming with enigmatic cats aren’t strange enough, Davy Jones discovers that his school locker has been relocated to the deep end of the swimming pool, his lunchtime fries are delivered by a “spudzooka,” and no one seems to be able to get his name right. On the other hand, his classmates welcome him, and in next to no time he’s breaking into an abandoned arcade to play pinball against a ghost, helping track down a pet pig gone missing on Gravity Maintenance Day, and like adventures that, often as not, take sinister swerves before edging back to the merely peculiar. Point-of-view duties pass freely from character to character, and chapters are punctuated with extracts from the Topsea School Gazette (“Today’s Seaweed Level: Medium-high and feisty”), bulletins on such topics as the safe handling of rubber ducks, and background notes on, for instance, the five local seasons, giving the narrative a pleasantly loose-jointed feel. Davy presents as white, but several other central cast members are specifically described as dark- or light-skinned and are so depicted in the frequent line drawings; one has two moms.

A deft mix of chills and chuckles, not quite as sideways as Wayside School but in the same district. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-00005-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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Middle schoolers will clamor for a transfer.

MIDDLE-SCHOOL COOL

Graduates of Wayside School will fit right in at the decidedly unconventional Kaboom Academy.

The Academy is located in a former mental situation, staffed in part by former patients and dedicated to making students fall “madly in love with learning!” It offers literary classics in easy-to-swallow pill form, games of dodgeball in which the balls vigorously throw themselves, loud gongs and cannon fire instead of bells, and character-building lunches sprinkled with “curiosity,” “honesty” and other “spices of life.” The school also has a journalism class of nine young investigative reporters—including legally blind photographer Leo and telepathic former conjoined twins Aliya and Taliya—determined to winkle out all of the Academy’s secrets. Williams weighs her episodic tale down with detailed expositions of the central cast’s unhappy pasts and troubled domestic situations, as well as heavy-handed axe grinding in repeated rants against the boring, pointless, time-wasting experience of going to normal school. Nevertheless, the mix of out-and-out magic with far-fetched but logical twists creates an enjoyably surreal romp. Also, the author shows a knack for wacky inventions, from those book pills to the climactic arrival of an Invisiblimp.

Middle schoolers will clamor for a transfer. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74349-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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THE BOY IN THE OAK

Physically slender but long on mystical atmosphere, Albarn’s debut features a mix of feathery line portraits and translucent leaves of pale, reworked photos of butterfly-wing and other natural patterns. They illustrate a short, formally told tale of Faerie retribution and redemption. In the first part, a bored, malicious lad tries to set fire to a Druidic Oak near his parents’ cottage and is embedded within the wood by angry sprites. Years later, when the Faeries try to do the same to a young girl whose parents plan to cut the tree down, the boy saves her and is released for showing compassion. The elevated language is nowhere near as polished as the pictures: “The boy awoke with a thud to his heart”; “He twisted with anxiety, wretched with his own memories and shameful of his past.” The special paper adds a misty, magical air to the page turns, however, and the insectile, sharp-tempered Faeries inject a needed thread of animation. Will tempt fans of the Spiderwick series and all things Faerie. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-897476-52-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simply Read

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2010

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