An enjoyably amusing story that’s sometimes gross but also wholesome.

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BIG MONTY AND THE LUNATIC LUNCH LADY

A school cafeteria worker creates a monster to get revenge on disrespectful students, and a fifth-grader and his sister work to stop her in this middle-grade novel.

This series opener introduces young Merlin Montgomery, who prefers to be called “Big Monty.” An African-American fifth-grader at Washington Carver Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee, Big Monty loves Pokémon, astronomy, explaining things to others (such as what the acronym “laser” means), and Taco Tuesdays at the school cafeteria. But on this Tuesday, lunch lady Mrs. Findlehorner serves nasty leftovers from Meatloaf Monday. The boy makes an enemy of her when he quips that “it isn’t leftovers if it wasn’t food to begin with.” He compounds the error by participating in a lunchroom food fight with school bully Antavius LaRoyce “A’lo” Jenkins. Big Monty’s punishment for the fight is cleaning the cafeteria after school, during which he discovers Mrs. Findlehorner talking to an extremely unpleasant monster, made of decomposing lunch leftovers. Big Monty flees, but afterward, adults refuse to help him investigate further. Luckily, his clever, popular kid sister Josephine joins him in his quest. Later, during a confrontation with the monster, the siblings discover that Mrs. Findlehorner has good reason for her bad attitude, and things end on a happy note. The book includes an appendix of Big Monty’s explanations of scientific concepts, as well as instructions for a science experiment. In this debut novel, Maxx tells a highly entertaining story that has a relatable narrator and plenty of warmth. Although Big Monty sometimes has a know-it-all streak, he’s also friendly, confident, and open: “for some reason, all the cool kids liked A’lo. And hey, I’m down with them too.” The story models experimenting and research skills, as when Josephine searches the internet and learns that “Strawberry milk is just milk” with added sugar and red dye. The book also offers good characterization, even for minor figures such as Coach Hamhock, “a three-time Olympic deadlift champion” who’s never been the same since she failed to qualify again during tryouts.

An enjoyably amusing story that’s sometimes gross but also wholesome.

Pub Date: March 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73374-352-5

Page Count: 90

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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