A droll, deftly executed debut.

ANNA ANALYST

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.

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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Nellie Bly’s contemporary namesake does her proud.

THE NEWSPAPER CLUB

From the Newspaper Club series , Vol. 1

Eleven-year-old Nellie’s investigative reporting leads her to solve a mystery, start a newspaper, and learn key lessons about growing up.

Nellie’s voice is frank and often funny—and always full of information about newspapers. She tells readers of the first meeting of her newspaper club and then says, “But maybe I’m burying the lede…what Dad calls it when a reporter puts the most interesting part…in the middle or toward the end.” (This and other journalism vocabulary is formally defined in a closing glossary.) She backtracks to earlier that summer, when she and her mother were newly moved into a house next to her mother’s best friend in rural Bear Creek, Maine. Nellie explains that the newspaper that employed both of her parents in “the city” had folded soon after her father left for business in Asia. When Bear Creek Park gets closed due to mysterious, petty crimes, Nellie feels compelled to investigate. She feels closest to her dad when on the park’s swings, and she is more comfortable interviewing adults than befriending peers. Getting to know a plethora of characters through Nellie’s eyes is as much fun as watching Nellie blossom. Although astute readers will have guessed the park’s vandalizers, they are rewarded by observing Nellie’s fact-checking process. A late revelation about Nellie’s father does not significantly detract from this fully realized story of a young girl adjusting admirably to new circumstances. Nellie and her mother present white; secondary characters are diverse.

Nellie Bly’s contemporary namesake does her proud. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7624-9685-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Running Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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