A fresh alternative to dustier collections, well-tuned for reading aloud.

MAGICAL CELTIC TALES

Nine old tales retold, featuring courage and cleverness, giants and wee folk, rash actions and romance.

Gathered from, mostly, public-domain sources and fluently recast with occasional modern inflections (“Meanwhile, back at the court, King Gwrtheyrn was depressed”), the stories largely skip past explicit gore or violence to play up family and domestic values. Thus “Conor the Brave” takes on several (rather easily defeated) giants to keep his widowed mother in firewood; Hamish (euphemistically dubbed a “seal catcher”) takes up trade in sealskins to help his impoverished Scottish clan—and sincerely repents after discovering that selkies are real; and a Cornish couple is rewarded with a human child for looking lovingly after a changeling for 10 years. In a “Rumpelstiltskin” variant from the Isle of Man that puts at least a mild spin on convention, slacker housewife Blaanid mends her ways after her own procrastination forces her into a deal with a scary giant in order to get her hardworking husband a coat. In O’Connor’s brushy watercolors, red-haired or blond young white folk in ragged country clothing intrepidly face portly giants or pointy-eared fairies in rugged wind-swept landscapes. American tongues will wish in vain for a pronunciation guide to the Welsh and Gaelic names, but in her endnotes, Leavy does supply both context and sources for each story.

A fresh alternative to dustier collections, well-tuned for reading aloud. (Folk tales. 7-11)

Pub Date: May 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-84717-546-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Dufour

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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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An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.

BOOKMARKS ARE PEOPLE TOO!

From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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