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


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.


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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Trisha is ready to start at a new school, where no one will know she has dyslexia. At first, she is heartbroken to be in Miss Peterson’s special-ed class, aka, “the junkyard.” But Miss Peterson treats the children as anything but junk, showing them that everyone has a unique talent. Polacco’s trademark style is fully present here; her sensitively drawn alter ego shines with depth of feeling. When bullying occurs, Miss Peterson proves her students are worthwhile by planning a junkyard field trip, where they find valuable objects to be used in exciting ways. Trisha’s group repairs a plane, and the class buys an engine for it. Then a beloved class member dies, and the children must find a way to honor him. While the plot meanders somewhat, the characters are appealing, believable and provide a fine portrayal of a truly special class. Children will be drawn in by the story’s warmth and gentle humor and will leave with a spark of inspiration, an appreciation of individual differences and a firm anti-bullying message, all underscored by the author’s note that concludes the book. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-399-25078-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

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