HOW TO AVOID EXTINCTION

Late in the book, a character sums up the plot by saying, “That’s the key to happiness….Join the right circus.” Despite some...

A screwball comedy sends Leo, his older cousin, Abbey, his grandmother, and a golden retriever across the country in a 1973 Buick Electra.

Some of the chapter headings are funny enough to convince people to read the book all by themselves—who could pass up “We All Look Like Chickens to God”? The writing in the book doesn’t always live up to the headings, but every few pages, there’s a sentence that’s so on-the-nose it’s both beautiful and revelatory, as in, “ ‘I haven’t figured it out yet’ is not a bad life philosophy.” Leo’s widowed grandmother has run off to Utah to see allosaurs. Initially, Leo, Abbey, and the dog are with her, but she ditches them in Nebraska, leaving them to chase after her. Leo and his family are white, but they befriend a Filipina-American museum worker named Honey, possibly the book’s best character. She’s posted a sign that reads, in part: “Hi! The tattoos, which cover my entire back, shoulders, and upper arms, are traditional Filipino tribal designs. It did hurt. My parents don’t mind.” Her joining the quest just makes the book better. Some of the dialogue is too sitcom-y to be believable, but it’s largely balanced out.

Late in the book, a character sums up the plot by saying, “That’s the key to happiness….Join the right circus.” Despite some flaws, this book is the right circus. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-89906-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

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. 18, 2019

CHARLOTTE'S WEB

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often...

A successful juvenile by the beloved New Yorker writer portrays a farm episode with an imaginative twist that makes a poignant, humorous story of a pig, a spider and a little girl.

Young Fern Arable pleads for the life of runt piglet Wilbur and gets her father to sell him to a neighbor, Mr. Zuckerman. Daily, Fern visits the Zuckermans to sit and muse with Wilbur and with the clever pen spider Charlotte, who befriends him when he is lonely and downcast. At the news of Wilbur's forthcoming slaughter, campaigning Charlotte, to the astonishment of people for miles around, spins words in her web. "Some Pig" comes first. Then "Terrific"—then "Radiant". The last word, when Wilbur is about to win a show prize and Charlotte is about to die from building her egg sac, is "Humble". And as the wonderful Charlotte does die, the sadness is tempered by the promise of more spiders next spring.

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often informative as amusing, and the whole tenor of appealing wit and pathos will make fine entertainment for reading aloud, too.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1952

ISBN: 978-0-06-026385-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1952

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