SUMMER SWITCH

Having hit the comedy switch with Freaky Friday (1972), which put 13-year-old Annabel Andrews into her mother's body for a brief spell of household hassles, Rodgers generates as many laughs by having Annabel's younger brother Ben, now twelve, switch bodies with his father. Both are surprised when it happens in the Port Authority bus station—and a screaming, kicking Dad is dragged off to the summer camp he hated in his own youth while Ben, in beard and business suit, must fly to L.A. for some very sensitive sessions with his new boss, the president of Galaxy Pictures. A serious early goof on Ben's part actually works for his (or his dad's) advantage, and soon he is offered a promotion to vice president and a move to Los Angeles. All in all bland, nice-guy Ben does surprisingly well in this ruthless world where no one is sincere and his goofs are interpreted as gamesmanship. Meanwhile, in alternate chapters, Dad-as-Ben becomes the successful jock he never was the first time round, and the tired old summer-camp material gets a shot in the arm from the switch twist: when the camper protagonist lets down his music-loving best friend to become popular number-two jock, then lets down number-one jock to return to his friend, it is executive Dad, not a developing kid, who is being humanized. The major crisis comes to center on the mother/wife, who is angry that her husband (so it seems) has unilaterally accepted the move to California—but the males are switched back in time to solve that problem, in a way Dad wouldn't have before. Needless to say, father and son end up closer for the ordeal. More important, the mixups along the way are hilariously funny.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 1982

ISBN: 0060512318

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1982

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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A joyful celebration.

FAMILIES BELONG

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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