Readers who might be miffed at the anti-city, anti-computer bias will be much mollified by hearing the animals’...

WOOLLY JUMPERS

Twins Mikey and Jake and their baby sister, Sally, move to the country from the city, with interesting results, in this middle-grade tale touched lightly with fantasy.

Mikey narrates, except for the chapters in which the sheep, the lizards and Emma the rescue dog tell part of the story. Mikey is not at all sure this country business is worth it: no email, no corner store, no dishwasher. “When you don’t want to be someplace, it takes a lot of time to be there.” He talks a lot about missing his cool friend, Justin, and what he might tell him about this strange new life. When a snake turns up, it is Mikey who gets to choose Emma, an Old English sheepdog rescued from a puppy mill, to keep it away. She does, too, and although she is hopeless at the neighbor’s sheep, she does rescue Sally from a muddy drowning. The boys’ plan to get the sheep to mow their lawn is told both from their point of view and  that of the sheep, and it is pretty hilarious, especially when both sheep get locked in the car sitting on the horn (don’t ask). Mikey’s efforts at winkling out what his parents mean, exactly, are very much on target, and seeing how adult actions look to the boys is amusing and sometimes wise.

Readers who might be miffed at the anti-city, anti-computer bias will be much mollified by hearing the animals’ conversations, which make it all worthwhile. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61067-050-0

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Kane Miller

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2013

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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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  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

INFINITE COUNTRY

A 15-year-old girl in Colombia, doing time in a remote detention center, orchestrates a jail break and tries to get home.

"People say drugs and alcohol are the greatest and most persuasive narcotics—the elements most likely to ruin a life. They're wrong. It's love." As the U.S. recovers from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from the misery of separations on the border, from both the idea and the reality of a wall around the United States, Engel's vital story of a divided Colombian family is a book we need to read. Weaving Andean myth and natural symbolism into her narrative—condors signify mating for life, jaguars revenge; the embattled Colombians are "a singed species of birds without feathers who can still fly"; children born in one country and raised in another are "repotted flowers, creatures forced to live in the wrong habitat"—she follows Talia, the youngest child, on a complex journey. Having committed a violent crime not long before she was scheduled to leave her father in Bogotá to join her mother and siblings in New Jersey, she winds up in a horrible Catholic juvie from which she must escape in order to make her plane. Hence the book's wonderful first sentence: "It was her idea to tie up the nun." Talia's cross-country journey is interwoven with the story of her parents' early romance, their migration to the United States, her father's deportation, her grandmother's death, the struggle to reunite. In the latter third of the book, surprising narrative shifts are made to include the voices of Talia's siblings, raised in the U.S. This provides interesting new perspectives, but it is a little awkward to break the fourth wall so late in the book. Attention, TV and movie people: This story is made for the screen.

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982159-46-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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This revenger’s comedy, dotted with references to classic plays and philosophical concepts, will be a joy for pranksters and...

THE TERRIBLE TWO GET WORSE

From the Terrible Two series , Vol. 2

When pranking perfection meets the seemingly unprankable foe, who gets the last laugh?

Terrible Two Niles and Miles have been merrily pranking their favorite targets, Principal Barkin and his dim, loathsome son Josh, at school and in town all autumn long. Fed up with the plague of pranks, former Principal Barkin (father of the current one) stages a coup d’état at a school board meeting and takes back his old job. This new-old Principal Barkin is draconian in his control of the school. He hangs a sign counting the days since the last prank…which, since he avows there is no prank if no one reacts (and he never reacts), means there have been no pranks. Miles and Niles despair as one after another of their complex, devious plots are ignored. School becomes unbearable until they seek help from a most unlikely source. Can three succeed where two have failed? John and Barnett’s sophomore effort is as much fun as series opener The Terrible Two (2015). The boys’ history as rivals and their home lives barely receive mention here, so the first volume is a must-read—no hardship. Cornell’s line drawings add to the goofy, deadpan experience.

This revenger’s comedy, dotted with references to classic plays and philosophical concepts, will be a joy for pranksters and seekers of a good-hearted laugh. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4197-1680-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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