THE BIRTHDAY BALL

A very bored princess opts for change in this droll take on the Cinderella story. Five days before her 16th Birthday Ball, at which she’s expected to choose her future husband, Princess Patricia Priscilla borrows her chambermaid’s homespun dress, braids her curls and sheds her shoes to escape the palace and masquerade as peasant girl “Pat” in the village school. She quickly develops a crush on the handsome-but-poor young schoolmaster. Meanwhile, her wealthy noble suitors, the repellant Duke of Dyspepsia, the narcissistic Prince of Pustula and the disgusting conjoint Counts of Coagulatia prepare to attend the ball and win the princess. Faced with such totally repulsive choices, the proactive princess invites the whole village to her ball and upsets royal protocol in the best possible way. In her clever fairy-tale reconstruction, Lowry transforms the traditional princess into a refreshingly egalitarian heroine with a mind of her own. The hilarious, original and truly loathsome suitors are aptly memorialized in Feiffer’s spritely black-and-white caricature illustrations. Guaranteed to generate giggles and guffaws. (Fairy tale. 8-12).

Pub Date: April 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-547-23869-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Yet another novel about dreading middle school, this breezy beach read is well-done but offers little new.

11 BEFORE 12

Two BFFs tackle the anxiety-riddled transition to middle school by creating a list of 11 things to accomplish before their 12th birthdays in November.

Kaylan has what her Italian grandmother called “agita”—anxiety—and she has maximum-high levels at the prospect of sixth grade with its cliques and mean girls. Lots is changing in the white girl’s life: her dad has moved to Arizona and her mom is sad; her one-year-older brother, Ryan, once her friend, is now her tormentor; and she is beginning to get butterflies around boys. Kaylan and her best friend, Ari, white and Jewish, create a list, ranging from getting detention and makeovers to first kisses and sabotaging Ryan. When Ari connects with friends from Hebrew school and summer camp, the two BFFs fight. Kaylan’s not-quite-teen first-person voice perfectly captures the horrors of starting at a new school, from the prospect of eating alone in the cafeteria to the awkwardness of meeting a new neighbor boy, biracial (black/white) Jason. Jason supplies most of the book’s diversity; one of the indistinguishable lunch-table friends mentions being Korean but is undeveloped as a character. As is typical for the genre, Kaylan matures and learns to cope with unpredictability, even participating in the talent show as the fastest clementine peeler in school.

Yet another novel about dreading middle school, this breezy beach read is well-done but offers little new. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-241174-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Insurmountably derivative.

THE FEAR ZONE

A mysterious evil preys on the fears of a group of kids.

The notes mysteriously arrive on Halloween, instructing eighth graders April (fat and bullied, likely white); her best friend, Andres (gay and Latinx); their former friend–turned–class bully Caroline (white); and unpopular ninth grader Deshaun (black) to go to the cemetery at midnight. Deshaun’s popular best friend, Kyle (white and gay), tags along, and the group converges on a mysterious gravesite—it’s old but also has been recently vandalized, and the dirt looks freshly disturbed. They feel compelled to dig, until they unearth a tin and hope that’s the end of a prank. But it’s no prank, and they find themselves haunted by their individual greatest fears—and in between the personalized hauntings, the malicious entity assumes the form of April’s greatest fear, a clown, which menaces, waves at, and taunts the kids. While the target audience is—by age rating—too young to have had direct exposure to Stephen King’s novel IT (1986) and its past and present cinematic adaptations, many will be familiar enough with the premise to recognize the glaring similarities. The narration alternates among the five characters, with their voices for the most part sounding all too similar. The parts dealing with the evil entity are scary without being graphic; the most effective subplot deals with an abusive home life situation. The unsatisfying ending leaves too many questions unanswered.

Insurmountably derivative. (Horror. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-57717-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more