Written to express the power of claiming an ownership of one’s education and the bonds of community, the narrative fails to...

BOOKS AND BRICKS

HOW A SCHOOL REBUILT THE COMMUNITY

In this fictionalized story of community organizing and uplift, nonwhite South African families band together to make their community school a place where students feel safe, cared for, and encouraged to awaken their dreams.

Salmina Arends is a black girl and sixth-grader at the imagined Manyano School. (“Manyano” is a Xhosa word meaning “coming together, or unity.”) The school is consistently under siege by skollies, an Afrikaans word for vandals or gang members, and litter is everywhere. When a new principal is able to leverage new computers for the school and they are subsequently stolen, he recognizes something must change. He calls for the community to take ownership of the school, and many of the otherwise unemployed family members begin an industrious schoolyard brick-making project that turns around the culture of the school and reaches into the soul of the community it serves. The afterlife of the apartheid regime in South Africa lingers in the story, but many of the book’s insights into post-apartheid South Africa live between the lines. In the afterword readers learn of the real-life school the episode is based on—and of the unfulfilled promise of universal education. This is crucially missing from the feel-good primary narrative, as is a direct confrontation of the causes of South Africa’s ills.

Written to express the power of claiming an ownership of one’s education and the bonds of community, the narrative fails to live up to what it teaches by reducing and erasing when more hard work and commitment were needed. (glossary, maps, bio of Nelson Mandela) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59572-779-4

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Star Bright

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2017

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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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SWINDLE

From the Swindle series , Vol. 1

Eleven-year-old Griffin Bing is “the man with the plan.” If something needs doing, Griffin carefully plans a fix and his best friend Ben usually gets roped in as assistant. When the town council ignores his plan for a skate park on the grounds of the soon-to-be demolished Rockford House, Griffin plans a camp-out in the house. While there, he discovers a rare Babe Ruth baseball card. His family’s money worries are suddenly a thing of the past, until unscrupulous collectables dealer S. Wendell Palomino swindles him. Griffin and Ben plan to snatch the card back with a little help. Pet-lover Savannah whispers the blood-thirsty Doberman. Rock-climber “Pitch” takes care of scaling the house. Budding-actor Logan distracts the nosy neighbor. Computer-expert Melissa hacks Palomino’s e-mail and the house alarm. Little goes according to plan, but everything turns out all right in this improbable but fun romp by the prolific and always entertaining Korman. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-439-90344-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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