An absurd story executed with admirable gravity and skill.

READ REVIEW

THUNDERCLUCK!

A semidivine chicken and his Valkyrie friend save Asgard from a nefarious culinary professional in this illustrated middle-grade novel.

The story opens as a disgruntled chef of Asgard accidentally helps Thor imbue his beloved chicken, Hennda, with the power of the gods. The ancient Norse goddess of prophecy foresees (in flawless rhyme) that Thundercluck, the offspring of Hennda and a thunderbolt, will later be the one to save them all from the cook after his descent to the underworld. After a few years spent magicless and safe with two old farmers, Thundercluck reunites with both his powers and his chickhood friend, the doughty Valkyrie Brunhilde, and together the two travel across the Realms to vanquish the evil Under-Cook once and for all. It’s a ridiculous plot, delivered with an impeccably serious tone, where every joke, from evil apple pie to a recipe for Chicken Soup for the Wretched Soul, is delivered deadpan and contrasts with suspensefully high stakes. Carefully worded sentences often integrate both rhythm and clarity, making this an ideal adventure for more reluctant readers. The valiant chicken thinks coherently to himself, but his entire dialogue consists of artfully timed “Ba-bwak?”s and “Ba-GURRRK”s, adding another layer of hilarity to an already comical story. Spot illustrations throughout add to the characterization, imbuing Thundercluck especially with a singular personality and depicting most humans and humanoids with paper-white skin.

An absurd story executed with admirable gravity and skill. (Fantasy. 7-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-15528-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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Readers will be waiting to see how Charlie faces his next challenge in a series that marks a lovely change of pace from the...

CHARLIE BUMPERS VS. THE TEACHER OF THE YEAR

From the Charlie Bumpers series , Vol. 1

Charlie Bumpers is doomed. The one teacher he never wanted in the whole school turns out to be his fourth-grade teacher.

Charlie recalls third grade, when he accidentally hit the scariest teacher in the whole school with his sneaker. “I know all about you, Charlie Bumpers,” she says menacingly on the first day of fourth grade. Now, in addition to all the hardships of starting school, he has gotten off on the wrong foot with her. Charlie’s dry and dramatic narrative voice clearly reveals the inner life of a 9-year-old—the glass is always half empty, especially in light of a series of well-intentioned events gone awry. It’s quite a litany: “Hitting Mrs. Burke in the head with the sneaker. The messy desk. The swinging on the door. The toilet paper. And now this—the shoe on the roof.” Harley has teamed once again with illustrator Gustavson (Lost and Found, 2012) to create a real-life world in which a likable kid must face the everyday terrors of childhood: enormous bullies, looming teachers and thick gym coaches with huge pointing fingers. Into this series opener, Harley magically weaves the simple lesson that people, even teachers, can surprise you.

Readers will be waiting to see how Charlie faces his next challenge in a series that marks a lovely change of pace from the sarcasm of Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-56145-732-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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