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

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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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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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A solid, not particularly daring addition to the hybrid format for middle-grade readers, mixing drama with heart.

POSITIVELY IZZY

This reader-friendly graphic/prose hybrid explores the lives of two very different girls who have an unexpected connection.

Izzy and Brianna both, separately, navigate difficult middle school experiences. Brianna, whose story is told entirely in sequential panels, is studious, reserved, and a little lonely. Izzy, who tells her story in paragraphs broken up by illustrations, is an unreliable middle sister with a love for performance and a lot of indifference toward schoolwork. Izzy sneaks out against her mother’s wishes to perform in the school talent show, while Bri’s mother (also a teacher at her school) convinces her to fill in for a sick actor. Both girls juggle complex family dynamics, shifting friend groups, and boys in the hours leading up to their performances. The story is light but resonant for middle graders, with constant comedic asides in the illustrations. Both girls appear white (based on the color cover), with multiracial supporting casts, and both threads of the story skirt larger issues. The opening pages, in which Bri complains about labels, hint at a larger theme that recedes into the background as the two girls struggle with their interpersonal relationships. Readers primed by the back-cover blurb will spend the whole book waiting for the two stories to intersect, with a surprise reveal at the end that may call for an immediate reread.

A solid, not particularly daring addition to the hybrid format for middle-grade readers, mixing drama with heart. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-248497-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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