Fast-paced fun. (Chapter book. 7-12)

HOOEY HIGGINS AND THE SHARK

From the Hooey Higgins series , Vol. 1

Best friends Hooey and Twig go to great lengths to raise money to buy a giant chocolate egg.

Mr. Danson wants to raise money to build a new shop window with his name etched into it, like a “true chocolatier.” Hooey and Twig just want his enormous oeuf en chocolat, which sports an equally oversized price tag. Being 8-year-olds, they are willing to take on the fundraising challenge, coming up with one plan after another. First, they try to catch a shark for the reward that they imagine will follow. While spilling ketchup to attract the shark, Hooey discovers a giant sea urchin and comes up with a plot to charge folks to see it. Things never go the way they are supposed to, of course, and the urchin proves to be more than the boys can handle. Over-the-top situations are matched perfectly with exaggerated black-and-white illustrations. Anything that skinny, spiky-haired Hooey doesn’t want to do will be embraced by big-eared Twig, including wearing a sandwich board and gluing straws in his hair to mimic a sea urchin. Mix in some underwear, a World War II sea mine and old guys wearing the Union Jack on their swim trunks, and you’ve got a romp that might just drag a few eyes away from the Wimpy Kid books.

Fast-paced fun. (Chapter book. 7-12)

Pub Date: April 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5782-6

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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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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A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid.

JAKE THE FAKE KEEPS IT REAL

From the Jake the Fake series , Vol. 1

Black sixth-grader Jake Liston can only play one song on the piano. He can’t read music very well, and he can’t improvise. So how did Jake get accepted to the Music and Art Academy? He faked it.

Alongside an eclectic group of academy classmates, and with advice from his best friend, Jake tries to fit in at a school where things like garbage sculpting and writing art reviews of bird poop splatter are the norm. All is well until Jake discovers that the end-of-the-semester talent show is only two weeks away, and Jake is short one very important thing…talent. Or is he? It’s up to Jake to either find the talent that lies within or embarrass himself in front of the entire school. Light and humorous, with Knight’s illustrations adding to the fun, Jake’s story will likely appeal to many middle-grade readers, especially those who might otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book. While the artsy antics may be over-the-top at times, this is a story about something that most preteens can relate to: the struggle to find your authentic self. And in a world filled with books about wanting to fit in with the athletically gifted supercliques, this novel unabashedly celebrates the artsy crowd in all of its quirky, creative glory.

A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-52351-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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