A droll, deftly executed debut.


A kid on the cusp of middle school attempts to solve her problems using handwriting analysis.

Lately, Anna’s best friend, Lana, has been hanging out with Harlow and planning a Japanese anime marathon for the summer. Anna, no fan of either Harlow or anime, fears Lana might be replacing her. Anna’s own summer plans revolve around active, outdoor activities like minigolf. Her friend Evan has no interest in minigolf; his passion is gaming. Lana, who’s lined up a dogsitting gig, probably won’t help Anna care for her pet tortoises, Nachos and Salsa. No, Lana will be earning money to buy a phone and clothes for her “whole new look.” Money’s tight at Anna’s house since her overprotective mom lost her job. And that’s not all. Anna keeps forgetting to clean the tortoises’ habitat; the tiny crack on Nachos’ shell is growing. Hoping The Guide to Graphology, found abandoned in a classroom cupboard on the last day of fifth grade, can help her assess Lana’s intentions, Anna soon applies it to her other goals, too. She collects handwriting samples from friends and family, then supplements (or substitutes) the book’s analysis with her own pithy critiques. Few agree to pay for her services, though; meanwhile, Lana’s still friends with Harlow, and Nachos’ shell looks worse. Bossy, inventive Anna is authentic and endearing. Her dilemmas and struggles—especially when her creative solutions breed new problems—are convincing, at once familiar and fresh. Characters default to White.

A droll, deftly executed debut. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 10, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77337-056-9

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Yellow Dog

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs.


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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From the Swindle series , Vol. 1

Eleven-year-old Griffin Bing is “the man with the plan.” If something needs doing, Griffin carefully plans a fix and his best friend Ben usually gets roped in as assistant. When the town council ignores his plan for a skate park on the grounds of the soon-to-be demolished Rockford House, Griffin plans a camp-out in the house. While there, he discovers a rare Babe Ruth baseball card. His family’s money worries are suddenly a thing of the past, until unscrupulous collectables dealer S. Wendell Palomino swindles him. Griffin and Ben plan to snatch the card back with a little help. Pet-lover Savannah whispers the blood-thirsty Doberman. Rock-climber “Pitch” takes care of scaling the house. Budding-actor Logan distracts the nosy neighbor. Computer-expert Melissa hacks Palomino’s e-mail and the house alarm. Little goes according to plan, but everything turns out all right in this improbable but fun romp by the prolific and always entertaining Korman. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-439-90344-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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