Stronger at conveying a sense of Tlingit life than at spinning a tale that will appeal to general audiences.

READ REVIEW

LITTLE WHALE

A STORY OF THE LAST TLINGIT WAR CANOE

Eager to prove himself, an Alaska Native child helps his father free a baby whale from a net, then stows away to join an expedition to a distant village.

Peratrovich bases his tale on an event from his Tlingit grandfather’s youth, preceding the narrative with a glossary and introductory descriptions of the Tlingit moiety system and village life that both are generalized and include some contradictory information. In the story proper, when 10-year-old Kéet goes fishing for cháatl (halibut) with his father, he cuts a yáay (whale—the exact species is not indicated) from a floating net made of strange materials, probably by the “pale people.” The following day, he stows away aboard one of a fleet of canoes dispatched to another village in the wake of an unspecified “wrong” to a clan member. The whales reciprocate the earlier good deed by helping the canoes through a storm. Discovered, Kéet gets a long lecture from his father—who then goes on to face a hostile reception at their destination and settle the dispute not with violence but with talk and ceremonial exchange of gifts. In a concluding note, the author confides that the whale encounters are his own invention and never does get around to explaining what made the titular canoe the “last” one. A spare handful of murky illustrations offer at best hazy impressions of what that canoe, ceremonial headgear, and longhouse village looked like.

Stronger at conveying a sense of Tlingit life than at spinning a tale that will appeal to general audiences. (map) (Historical fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-60223-295-2

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Univ. of Alaska

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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Formula horror from the 1990s still feels formulaic today.

GRAVE SECRETS

From the Deadtime Stories series , Vol. 1

The Deadtime Stories from the mid-1990s are rising again—this time in conjunction with a planned series of live-action TV-movies.

In this lightly edited reboot, preteen Amanda discovers an old doll buried in her backyard and shortly thereafter begins receiving ghostly messages written in sand or bathroom steam along the lines of “I want my baby back—now!” Then the doll disappears. Getting it back entails multiple encounters with Anna, the child ghost from whom it was stolen long ago, and the hostile, spooky old lady next door known to Amanda and friends as “Barnsey.” The shudders here are laboriously manufactured by contrived cliffhangers at each short chapter’s end, an obnoxious character who revels in sharing eerie rumors about Barnsey’s supposed witchy ways, nighttime expeditions into her yard and, particularly, with frequent screams: “And Kevin, who had been screaming his head off over Anna’s appearance, stopped screaming mid-scream the moment he saw Barnsey.” There’s no overt gore or violence, Anna fades away once she’s reunited with her doll and Barnsey, unsurprisingly, suddenly turns into a nice old lady.

Formula horror from the 1990s still feels formulaic today. (Horror. 9-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3065-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Starscape/Tom Doherty

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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