Graduates of Wayside School will fit right in at the decidedly unconventional Kaboom Academy.
The Academy is located in a former mental situation, staffed in part by former patients and dedicated to making students fall “madly in love with learning!” It offers literary classics in easy-to-swallow pill form, games of dodgeball in which the balls vigorously throw themselves, loud gongs and cannon fire instead of bells, and character-building lunches sprinkled with “curiosity,” “honesty” and other “spices of life.” The school also has a journalism class of nine young investigative reporters—including legally blind photographer Leo and telepathic former conjoined twins Aliya and Taliya—determined to winkle out all of the Academy’s secrets. Williams weighs her episodic tale down with detailed expositions of the central cast’s unhappy pasts and troubled domestic situations, as well as heavy-handed axe grinding in repeated rants against the boring, pointless, time-wasting experience of going to normal school. Nevertheless, the mix of out-and-out magic with far-fetched but logical twists creates an enjoyably surreal romp. Also, the author shows a knack for wacky inventions, from those book pills to the climactic arrival of an Invisiblimp.
Middle schoolers will clamor for a transfer. (Fantasy. 10-12)