Wrightson (The Nargun and the Stars, etc.) has grown so comfortable with her Australian spirit-presences that she's domesticated them: the Njimbin, or gnome, whose fowlhouse-"camp" is threatened by the arrival of old Mrs. Tucker, a doughty refugee from a home for the elderly, could almost be one of those mischief-makers, protecting his territory, common to Scottish and Irish lore. The crucial difference, which queers this almost-childless book for child-readers (in particular), is that the Njimbin turns into a mere instrument—for getting Mrs. Tucker from regimented Sunset House to a little-house-of-her-own in town, now with her foolish, lovable dog Hector and near her worried family. But because "she hated to go meekly back to town and leave the land's old thing victorious in her fowlhouse," she gets the building ready for a conflagration. Thus, she acknowledges she couldn't beat the Njimbin—with his rat-minions, his frog-invasion, his midge-storm. She knows, after young Ivan has fired his gun, that it would be open warfare with the Njimbin. But, in conceding defeat (and selling the rural property to purchase her house-in-town), she can't bear to leave the Njimbin, it seems, in even temporary possession. Since the story is involving only to the extent that the Njimbin and Mrs. Tucker are evenly matched (and tacit counterparts), the ending falsifies what has gone before. A good deal of Wrightson's typically fine descriptive detail (the behavior of rattled hens, the sound of a strong rower, the whirl of a column of midges) is expended on a rigged situation.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


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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A witty addition to the long-running series.


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 15

The Wimpy Kid hits the road.

The Heffley clan has been stuck living together in Gramma’s basement for two months, waiting for the family home to be repaired, and the constant togetherness has been getting on everybody’s nerves. Luckily Greg’s Uncle Gary has a camper waiting for someone to use it, and so the Heffleys set off on the open road looking for an adventurous vacation, hoping the changing scenery will bring a spark back to the family unit. The winding road leads the Heffleys to a sprawling RV park, a setting teeming with possibilities for Greg to get up to his usual shenanigans. Greg’s snarky asides and misadventures continue to entertain. At this point the Wimpy Kid books run like a well-oiled machine, paced perfectly with witty lines, smart gags, and charming cartoons. Kinney knows just where to put a joke, the precise moment to give a character shading, and exactly how to get the narrative rolling, spinning out the oddest plot developments. The appreciation Kinney has for these characters seeps through the novels, endearing the Heffleys to readers even through this title, the 15th installment in a franchise boasting spinoffs, movies, and merchandise. There may come a time when Greg and his family overstay their welcome, but thankfully that day still seems far off.

A witty addition to the long-running series. (Humor. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4868-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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