Readers may wonder if they really needed a poem for every day of the school year.

READ REVIEW

THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY

This novel in verse is a remarkable feat of mimicry. The poems sound exactly like they were written by real fifth-graders.

Ms. Hill’s students, a diverse bunch judging by their names and their pictures, are required to write a poem every morning. (They listen to folk music while they’re writing, which says a lot about Ms. Hill.) One Seuss-inspired poem includes the stanza “Some kids are glad and some are sad. / You sit by Teacher. Were you bad?” That level of authenticity is hard to take unless it reveals something about the characters’ personalities. Happily, many of the students are worth getting to know, like Newt Mathews, a boy with Asperger’s who rescues the frogs hiding in the school’s back brick wall. Their story is compelling enough: as the title hints, the students are trying to prevent their school from being torn down. But too much of the plot feels conventional. When a student gets a crush on a girl who claims to hate him, some readers will pray that they don’t fall in love. The last section of the book is full of lovely, inventive moments. A set of instructions for making a flipbook somehow becomes a metaphor for loss. But too many poems—especially a bad parody of “Big Yellow Taxi”—simply don’t work.

Readers may wonder if they really needed a poem for every day of the school year. (glossary, guide to poetic forms) (Verse novel. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-52137-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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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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