Another clever, comical story filled with fairy-tale characters' teen progeny

NEXT TOP VILLAIN

From the Ever After High: A School Story series , Vol. 1

The Ever After High franchise begun by Shannon Hale with The Storybook of Legends (2013) continues with a new companion series and new author.

Ever After High student princess Duchess Swan (daughter of the Swan Queen) is proud of her perfect grades and smooth ballet moves, and she is trying to come to terms with the fact that she won't have a “Happily Ever After” life but is destined to become merely a swan, albeit a royal one. Her roommate, fellow princess Lizzie Hearts, is the daughter of the Queen of Hearts of Wonderland. Duchess envies Lizzie her confidence and her future, since her foretold destiny does include a happy ending. What's more, Daring Charming, the ultrahandsome blond prince and crush object of every girl in the school—including Duchess—has an unrequited thing for Lizzie. The actual plot is pushed forward as Lizzie, Duchess and a few more students in General Villainy class battle to reach the honor of becoming the titular “Next Top Villain.” As in the previous books, humor and puns (“What the hex?”) are generously sprinkled like fairy dust throughout the story. Garnering much of the humor here is Sparrow Hood, Robin Hood's laid-back, soul-patched son, who is constantly riffing (both guitar and jokes). Readers will be mystified and perhaps frustrated that Duchess is so gaga over the empty-headed, narcissistic prince, but perhaps she will come to her swan senses in the next installment.

Another clever, comical story filled with fairy-tale characters' teen progeny . (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-40128-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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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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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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