A goldmine of information in this lucid and elegant recounting of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, with equally resplendent paintings. The story itself is deeply dramatic and set in relief by the author’s straightforward account. John A. Roebling, a German immigrant, studied and practiced building suspension bridges his whole life and convinced the government that this was the way to connect Brooklyn to New York. But while he was surveying the river site, a ferry smashed his foot, and he died of lockjaw, leaving his 32-year-old son Washington to run the massive project. Curlee does an excellent job not only of describing how the bridge was engineered and built, but of reminding his audience how different things were in 1870. In fascinating detail he describes how foundations had to be dug out by hand; that no one knew how to prevent “the bends” by moving slowly rather than directly out of a compressed air environment; and that much of what Roebling planned had first to be invented. Himself a victim of the bends, for the last 11 years of the project Roebling was a housebound invalid, and his wife, Emily, acted as his voice and assistant. On May 24, 1883, US President Chester A. Arthur led a huge celebration to open the bridge, whose beauty and majesty, no less than its perfect strength, has seen it through more than a century of traffic from carriages to cars. Heavily based on David McCullough’s The Great Bridge, one of four items in the bibliography, this awe-inspiring study provides an excellent resource for young people. (specifications, timeline, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83183-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating...


Nicholas is a bright boy who likes to make trouble at school, creatively. 

When he decides to torment his fifth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Granger (who is just as smart as he is), by getting everyone in the class to replace the word "pen'' with "frindle,'' he unleashes a series of events that rapidly spins out of control. If there's any justice in the world, Clements (Temple Cat, 1995, etc.) may have something of a classic on his hands. By turns amusing and adroit, this first novel is also utterly satisfying. The chess-like sparring between the gifted Nicholas and his crafty teacher is enthralling, while Mrs. Granger is that rarest of the breed: a teacher the children fear and complain about for the school year, and love and respect forever after. 

With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating tale—one to press upon children, and one they'll be passing among themselves. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-689-80669-8

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs.


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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