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Missy, and I oughta throw y—outta here on your butt for it”” and then gives Molly a penchant for frequent use of oddly outdated slang, e.g., “holy moly,” “yuk-o,” “kerflooey,” and variations of “thousands of zillions.”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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Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs.

WAYSIDE SCHOOL BENEATH THE CLOUD OF DOOM

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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