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DEWEY FAIRCHILD, TEACHER PROBLEM SOLVER

From the Dewey Fairchild series , Vol. 2

Grass-roots politics at its best, likely to leave readers flushed with laughter.

Sixth grade dumps a flurry of teacher and school-policy issues on a veteran problem-solver’s plate.

So it’s off to middle school and a whole new level of assignments for Dewey—including a teacher whose shark-based curriculum is terrorizing an entire class, the sudden appearance of single-sheet dispensers in all the toilet stalls, and the dismaying prospect of having the snack machines replaced by wholesome produce from a student garden. But, as fans of his exploits in Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver (2017) well know, no matter the scope or complexity of the case, Dewey has a plan or at least enough of one to get started. In classmates Colin and Seraphina, plus nonagenarian business associate, neighbor, and designated cookie baker Clara Cottonwood, he has an excellent posse, too. Extended brainstorming and research sessions, a poster campaign, and carefully crafted presentations for a climactic school assembly are all plainly offered as models for would-be activist readers, but the author stirs in a big dog, a little sister, classroom hijinks, family interplay, and so much banter and punning (“Your t-issue is a call to duty!”) that the agenda sits lightly on the roller-coaster plot. Dewey is white, but his supporting cast is more explicitly diversified than previously, both on the cover illustration (in which Colin and Seraphina are both shown to be kids of color) and in narrative references to immigrant parents, ethnicity, and like cues.

Grass-roots politics at its best, likely to leave readers flushed with laughter. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-944995-85-0

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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MILLIONAIRES FOR THE MONTH

Cinematic, over-the-top decadence, a tense race against time, and lessons on what’s truly valuable.

A reward of $5,000,000 almost ruins everything for two seventh graders.

On a class trip to New York City, Felix and Benji find a wallet belonging to social media billionaire Laura Friendly. Benji, a well-off, chaotic kid with learning disabilities, swipes $20 from the wallet before they send it back to its owner. Felix, a poor, shy, rule-follower, reluctantly consents. So when Laura Friendly herself arrives to give them a reward for the returned wallet, she’s annoyed. To teach her larcenous helpers a lesson, Laura offers them a deal: a $20,000 college scholarship or slightly over $5 million cash—but with strings attached. The boys must spend all the money in 30 days, with legal stipulations preventing them from giving anything away, investing, or telling anyone about it. The glorious windfall quickly grows to become a chore and then a torment as the boys appear increasingly selfish and irresponsible to the adults in their lives. They rent luxury cars, hire a (wonderful) philosophy undergrad as a chauffeur, take their families to Disney World, and spend thousands on in-app game purchases. Yet, surrounded by hedonistically described piles of loot and filthy lucre, the boys long for simpler fundamentals. The absorbing spending spree reads like a fun family film, gleefully stuffed with the very opulence it warns against. Major characters are White.

Cinematic, over-the-top decadence, a tense race against time, and lessons on what’s truly valuable. (mathematical explanations) (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-17525-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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