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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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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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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