BROTHERS BELOW ZERO

Seidler takes on an age-old story line—jealousy and competition between two dissimilar brothers—and spins it into a survival story with a soft mystical edge. Tim Tuttle, the gentle hero of the novel, is constantly outshone by his younger brother John Henry. In fact, Tim confesses to his Great-aunt Winifred, an eccentric but wise oldster who speaks almost entirely in folksy sayings, John Henry is just naturally “better at everything.” The situation reverses when Tim takes up painting and turns out to have a genuine gift. John Henry is consumed with resentment, so much so that he plays a mean trick on his brother, defacing a portrait Tim painted and then blaming him. Upset because his parents don’t believe his denials and furious that his multitalented brother would “ruin the one thing Tim was good at,” the young artist jumps out his window and into the icy snow below, sustaining a concussion in the process. Here, the story changes gears, going from a low-key family drama to a middling children-in-jeopardy story, as first a dazed Tim, then Tim and John Henry, struggle to stay alive in the freezing cold. The slender novel can’t sustain all the ideas it takes on, and the focus on the parents detracts from the main plot at the end. Still, every child with a brother or sister will be able to relate to the core situation, perhaps learning that comparing oneself to others is as “useless as two tails on a dog” in the process. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-029179-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2002

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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DIARY OF A WIMPY KID

A NOVEL IN CARTOONS

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 1

First volume of a planned three, this edited version of an ongoing online serial records a middle-school everykid’s triumphs and (more often) tribulations through the course of a school year. Largely through his own fault, mishaps seem to plague Greg at every turn, from the minor freak-outs of finding himself permanently seated in class between two pierced stoners and then being saddled with his mom for a substitute teacher, to being forced to wrestle in gym with a weird classmate who has invited him to view his “secret freckle.” Presented in a mix of legible “hand-lettered” text and lots of simple cartoon illustrations with the punch lines often in dialogue balloons, Greg’s escapades, unwavering self-interest and sardonic commentary are a hoot and a half—certain to elicit both gales of giggles and winces of sympathy (not to mention recognition) from young readers. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8109-9313-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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