Given its enduring themes, this novel from a small Catholic press has some potential for crossover appeal.


Test results may prove that 12-year-old Gabriel Carpenter is St. Jude Middle School’s only resident genius, but Mensa status sure doesn’t seem to make life any easier.

Gabe still can’t open his own locker or come up with anything intelligent to say to Becca Piccarelli. He stinks at sports, and to make matters worse, his second-best friend, brainy Maya, will barely speak to him anymore. Things get even more complicated when Gabe and Maya find themselves on the same team in the Middle School Academic Olympics. Though the first-person narration frequently feels forced and the book would have benefitted from a subtler attempt at humor than the clichéd boy-book-fart-jokes Haynes relies on, Gabe is a sympathetic underdog middle-grade readers will likely enjoy rooting for. At its core, this is clearly religious fiction, with references to saints and prayer throughout, but Gabe’s struggle to reconcile his gifts with the traditional social dictates of what’s cool and what’s not transcend affiliation. Arguably the most compelling plotline in the novel centers on Gabe’s struggle to fit in at home: Though his father is admittedly thrilled by his son’s confirmed genius, his actions lead Gabe to believe that he would prefer a star athlete to a star student.

Given its enduring themes, this novel from a small Catholic press has some potential for crossover appeal. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-08198-0830-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Pauline Teen

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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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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From the Swindle series , Vol. 1

Eleven-year-old Griffin Bing is “the man with the plan.” If something needs doing, Griffin carefully plans a fix and his best friend Ben usually gets roped in as assistant. When the town council ignores his plan for a skate park on the grounds of the soon-to-be demolished Rockford House, Griffin plans a camp-out in the house. While there, he discovers a rare Babe Ruth baseball card. His family’s money worries are suddenly a thing of the past, until unscrupulous collectables dealer S. Wendell Palomino swindles him. Griffin and Ben plan to snatch the card back with a little help. Pet-lover Savannah whispers the blood-thirsty Doberman. Rock-climber “Pitch” takes care of scaling the house. Budding-actor Logan distracts the nosy neighbor. Computer-expert Melissa hacks Palomino’s e-mail and the house alarm. Little goes according to plan, but everything turns out all right in this improbable but fun romp by the prolific and always entertaining Korman. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-439-90344-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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