BEHIND THE KING'S KITCHEN

A ROSTER OF RHYMING RIDDLES

An attractive presentation of traditional and other riddles, chosen as much for their poetic quality as for their humor or the challenge of the puzzles; the thematic grouping would tend to suggest solutions even if the answers weren't given. What isn't provided is accessible sourcing; though a list of works like the Opies' volumes is appended, readers must guess, for example, what era described a watch as ``Beloved by men of degree.'' Only entries from known authors are specifically attributed; these include elegant literary translations from Symphosius (fourth century) by Richard Wilbur, nice oddments from Tolkien, Swenson, and Rossetti, and several—mostly doggerel—from the editors. Hnizdovsky's lovely, spare woodcuts, on most spreads, contribute to the handsome format but have little child appeal. Overall: pleasing but not essential. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 30, 1992

ISBN: 1-56397-024-4

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1992

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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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LAWN BOY

After his grandmother gives him an old riding lawnmower for his summer birthday, this comedy’s 12-year-old narrator putt-putts into a series of increasingly complex and economically advantageous adventures. As each lawn job begets another, one client—persuasive day-trader Arnold Howell—barters market investing and dubious local business connections. Our naïve entrepreneur thus unwittingly acquires stock in an Internet start-up and a coffin company; a capable landscaping staff of 15 and the sponsorship of a hulking boxer named Joseph Powdermilk. There’s a semi-climactic scuffle with some bad guys bent on appropriating the lawn business, but Joey Pow easily dispatches them. If there’s tension here, it derives from the unremitting good news: While the reader may worry that Arnold’s a rip-off artist, Joey Pow will blow his fight, or (at the very least) the parents will go ballistic once clued in—all ends refreshingly well. The most complicated parts of this breezy affair are the chapter titles, which seem lifted from an officious, tenure-track academician’s economics text. Capital! (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 12, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-385-74686-1

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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