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

DEWEY FAIRCHILD, TEACHER PROBLEM SOLVER

From the Dewey Fairchild series , Vol. 2

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 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

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

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. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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Likely to sell in spades but a slipshod, slapdash outing from co-authors who usually have higher standards.

BEST NERDS FOREVER

Two young ghosts with unfinished business in this world join forces.

Eighth grade cyclist Finn McAllister decides to undertake a search for the supposedly crazed driver who forced him off the road and over a cliff to his death, but he spends far more of his time attending his own funeral, hovering near his grieving family and his four besties to overhear conversations, and floating through school—skipping the girls’ restroom because he still has somestandards—and positively hammering on the realization that wasting any of life’s opportunities can only lead to regret. He discovers that he can still taste ice cream, smell farts, skip stones in the local lake, and use a TV remote. He can also share thoughts with both the living and with Isabella Rojas, the ghost of a classmate who vanished several months previously but is still hanging around, although she is not sure why. Eventually, in a massively contrived climax that leaves both souls ready to move on, Finn comes up with a scheme to produce proof of Isabella’s death to bring closure to her mother and also absolves his hit-and-run driver of fault (for a reason readers will see coming). In this outing, the usually dynamic duo throws together an aimless ramble around a set of flimsy mysteries that fail to coalesce. Finn reads as White; Isabella is cued as Latinx. Final illustrations not seen.

Likely to sell in spades but a slipshod, slapdash outing from co-authors who usually have higher standards. (Paranormal fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-50024-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

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