JOURNEY BEHIND THE WIND

Youngsters who have read the earlier stories of the young Australian aboriginal Wurrin and his encounters with the spirit-world, The Ice Age Is Coming (1977) and The Dark Bright Water (1979), will perhaps want to follow him through to the climactic encounter with death; but this is in every respect less successful than its predecessors—more amorphous (and less graphic), more fraught with portent (and less humanly appealing). In terms of characters, it's barely a story at all: at the outset, Wurrin is married to the water-girl Murra, and aware that he may not be able to keep her; at the close, she has broken free of the Yunggamurra, and thus his. In between he is called upon again by Ko-in, who first made him a hero, to deal with "a fiery-eyed thing that calls itself death"—but is, it develops, only a "little bit" of the real thing. Via spirit-journeys—heavily dependent on references to the earlier books—Wurrin at last has his innings with the fearsome Wulgaru in the cave of the dead; and, in saying "I am, I am," he breaks free. Even Wrightson's sonorous, emotive writing cannot make his more than a paper contest, however, In almost excluding the casual, pregnant exchanges that gave the other books their vitality, and virtually the whole element of personality (human or extra-human), she leaves readers in a ponderous fog of myth and elusive "meaningfulness."

Pub Date: April 17, 1981

ISBN: 0345332504

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1981

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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