A DRAGON IN THE SKY

THE STORY OF A GREEN DARNER DRAGONFLY

The author of many fine science titles here presents the saga of a dragonfly, born in a swamp in upstate New York and destined to travel to Florida to fertilize eggs and die. The birth, growth, and development of this deceptively delicate creature is told in language both clear and lyrical, following a single egg from hatching to protonymph, through many molts to mature nymph, and finally to adulthood. There are enemies at every turn: frogs, salamanders, spiders, birds, and fish to name only a few; it’s a marvel that any dragonfly survives. The detail of the text is awesome; for example, the dragonfly nymph has a deadly lower lip, nearly a third the length of the entire nymph. It can shoot out with lightning speed in 25 thousandths of a second, to grasp and capture a prey, then fold up on its hinge when not in use. The illustrator does an outstanding job of showing close-up details of tiny specialized features such as the unique pattern of veins in the dragonfly wings that scientists use to distinguish one species from another. The author concludes with directions for capturing and caring for a dragonfly nymph, books for further reading, Web sites of interest, and an index. Readers who follow the journey of Anax, a lone green darner dragonfly, will gain an appreciation for a most remarkable creature. This is a worthy companion to Pringle’s An Extraordinary Life: The Story of the Monarch Butterfly. (1997). (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-531-30315-2

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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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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NIM'S ISLAND

A child finds that being alone in a tiny tropical paradise has its ups and downs in this appealingly offbeat tale from the Australian author of Peeling the Onion (1999). Though her mother is long dead and her scientist father Jack has just sailed off on a quick expedition to gather plankton, Nim is anything but lonely on her small island home. Not only does she have constant companions in Selkie, a sea lion, and a marine iguana named Fred, but Chica, a green turtle, has just arrived for an annual egg-laying—and, through the solar-powered laptop, she has even made a new e-mail friend in famed adventure novelist Alex Rover. Then a string of mishaps darkens Nim’s sunny skies: her father loses rudder and dish antenna in a storm; a tourist ship that was involved in her mother’s death appears off the island’s reefs; and, running down a volcanic slope, Nim takes a nasty spill that leaves her feverish, with an infected knee. Though she lives halfway around the world and is in reality a decidedly unadventurous urbanite, Alex, short for “Alexandra,” sets off to the rescue, arriving in the midst of another storm that requires Nim and companions to rescue her. Once Jack brings his battered boat limping home, the stage is set for sunny days again. Plenty of comic, freely-sketched line drawings help to keep the tone light, and Nim, with her unusual associates and just-right mix of self-reliance and vulnerability, makes a character young readers won’t soon tire of. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81123-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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