I WANT ANSWERS AND A PARACHUTE

When Matt and his little brother Jason fly from Phoenix to visit Dad and his new wife and stepdaughter in San Francisco, they're determined to be on their best behavior; meanwhile, Dad, wanting to make it a gala occasion, has planned a heavy two days of sightseeing. But though they're all genuinely glad to be together (Dad managed to see the boys monthly even after moving to another city), both sons are frazzled by the nonstop pace. When it's time to embark for whale-watching, Jason (whose many fears are comically introduced during the initial flight) can't face it. He hides, precipitating a healthy leveling: they've all been trying too hard: it's important to be honest as well. Significantly, when Dad gives Jason some real answers to his myriad questions, they help dispel his fears. It's good to have an easily read story where adjustments to new family arrangements are made with such goodwill and common sense. DiVito's frequent b&w illustrations resemble Sue Truesdell's in style; though they don't match Truesdell's impeccable eye and witty characterizations, they add nicely to the humor. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1993

ISBN: 0-671-86577-3

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1993

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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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THE COLOR OF MY WORDS

This standout novella lustrously portrays Ana Rosa and the rich simplicity of her family’s daily life in the Dominican Republic. The linked vignettes and elegant prose vitalize the merengue music, colorful houses, as well as the people’s poverty and the tyranny of the government. Each chapter begins with one of Ana Rosa’s lovely rhythmic verses. A poet and writer at age 12, she steals bits of paper to record everything she sees, hears, and imagines. Ana Rosa’s family is very close by necessity, but it is her beloved brother Guario who has the job that supports them. As the novella proceeds, dark shadows begin to slink through the gentle days. We learn that Ana Rosa’s father drinks too much rum and Coke, especially on Sundays, when he becomes a lurching spectacle. Then an official informs the villagers that to build a hotel, the government has sold the land on which their families have lived for generations. The villagers band together, Ana Rosa writes an article, and her brother Guario becomes their passionate leader. But when the day of the standoff arrives, the villager’s words and rocks are nothing against the guardia’s guns and bulldozers. The heartbreaking result is Guario’s death. Without diluting the sorrow, Joseph (Fly, Bessie, Fly, 1998, etc.) illustrates the good arising from the tragedy as the government cancels the hotel project and Ana Rosa begins writing the life of her brother. This is an achingly beautiful story that will awaken profound emotions in the reader. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2000

ISBN: 0-06-028232-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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