THE POLYESTER GRANDPA

A leaden comedy about a stereotypical family of snobs and a new member-by-marriage, a just as stereotypical self-made man—material ripe for and right out of TV sitcoms. Molly Knight’s elegant grandmother has only been widowed a year, so it’s a surprise when she remarries and brings her new husband to visit—in fact, Molly’s mother faints. Jimmy Barkenfalt, formerly a tailor, now owner of a chain of discount clothing stores, is amiable, but the Knights are shocked by his impact on Grandma, who is newly given to giggling and public displays of affection. To get rid of Jimmy, Molly stuffs his pillow with her cat Regina’s fur, to which he’s allergic. The Barkenfalts realize they’re not wanted; as they exit, Regina bolts up a tree. Jimmy bravely climbs the tree, getting scratched by the cat and almost having a heart attack. Despite that, Molly still dislikes Jimmy for breaking, in the process of the rescue, her cat’s tail (and dashing her hopes of exhibiting the cat). Freeman uses Jimmy’s speech to demonstrate his “lowly” origins ““Ya like to ‘a’ killed me, Little Missy, and I oughta throw y—outta here on your butt for it”” and then gives Molly a penchant for frequent use of oddly outdated slang, e.g., “holy moly,” “yuk-o,” “kerflooey,” and variations of “thousands of zillions.” (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 1998

ISBN: 0-8234-1398-5

Page Count: 145

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1998

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

FRINDLE

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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Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister:...

CORALINE

A magnificently creepy fantasy pits a bright, bored little girl against a soul-eating horror that inhabits the reality right next door.

Coraline’s parents are loving, but really too busy to play with her, so she amuses herself by exploring her family’s new flat. A drawing-room door that opens onto a brick wall becomes a natural magnet for the curious little girl, and she is only half-surprised when, one day, the door opens onto a hallway and Coraline finds herself in a skewed mirror of her own flat, complete with skewed, button-eyed versions of her own parents. This is Gaiman’s (American Gods, 2001, etc.) first novel for children, and the author of the Sandman graphic novels here shows a sure sense of a child’s fears—and the child’s ability to overcome those fears. “I will be brave,” thinks Coraline. “No, I am brave.” When Coraline realizes that her other mother has not only stolen her real parents but has also stolen the souls of other children before her, she resolves to free her parents and to find the lost souls by matching her wits against the not-mother. The narrative hews closely to a child’s-eye perspective: Coraline never really tries to understand what has happened or to fathom the nature of the other mother; she simply focuses on getting her parents back and thwarting the other mother for good. Her ability to accept and cope with the surreality of the other flat springs from the child’s ability to accept, without question, the eccentricity and arbitrariness of her own—and every child’s own—reality. As Coraline’s quest picks up its pace, the parallel world she finds herself trapped in grows ever more monstrous, generating some deliciously eerie descriptive writing.

Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister: Coraline is spot on. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-380-97778-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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