GRANDPA BLOWS HIS PENNY WHISTLE UNTIL THE ANGELS SING

When Little Boy James falls off the barn roof one Sunday morning and won’t wake up, Grandpa makes a rare trip up the hill to church—but he doesn’t pray the way his tagalong granddaughter expects him to. Roth (Happy Birthday Mr. Kang, p. 114, etc.) pairs her long but simply told miracle tale with huge, stunning collages made from tissue, handmade papers, fabrics, and leaves. Her small, crumpled figures float upon wide abstract backgrounds colored in hues chosen, she writes, to evoke dry, dusty, late summer days in America’s heartland. From the opening scenes caught through her “windows” as Little Boy James protests the confinement of church, the design shifts to reflect not only the setting, but also the moment in the story. The little sister standing alone in a narrow frame, the tiny brother on a vast swath of chenille, the tweedy doctor “flying” from his car across a sweep of blood-red earth, or the expanse of patchwork “fields” stretching between the house and the church aren’t simply pictures, they are a point of view. The congregation listens silently to long-winded Reverend Wilson, until Grandpa pulls out a penny whistle and blows a tune so sad and lonely that a choir of angels (garbed in transparent net) comes down through the stained-glass windows and fills the church. They follow him home, to sing around James’s bed until he opens his eyes. It’s a heart-filling (not to mention eye-filling) episode that will leave few readers unmoved—and the art is astonishing. (Picture book. 9-11)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-84148-247-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Barefoot

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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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 book is a cute, but rather standard offering from Avi (Tom, Babette, and Simon, p. 776, etc.).

POPPY

From the Poppy series , Vol. 3

An adolescent mouse named Poppy is off on a romantic tryst with her rebel boyfriend when they are attacked by Mr. Ocax, the owl who rules over the area.

He kills the boyfriend, but Poppy escapes and Mr. Ocax vows to catch her. Mr. Ocax has convinced all the mice that he is their protector when, in fact, he preys on them mercilessly. When the mice ask his permission to move to a new house, he refuses, blaming Poppy for his decision. Poppy suspects that there is another reason Mr. Ocax doesn't want them to move and investigates to clear her name. With the help of a prickly old porcupine and her quick wits, Poppy defeats her nemesis and her own fears, saving her family in the bargain. 

The book is a cute, but rather standard offering from Avi (Tom, Babette, and Simon, p. 776, etc.). (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-531-09483-9

Page Count: 147

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1995

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