Older middle-grade readers will find these Latin American horror stories deliciously short but spooky.

THE DONKEY LADY FIGHTS LA LLORONA AND OTHER STORIES / LA SEÑORA ASNO SE ENFRENTA A LA LLORONA Y OTROS CUENTOS

An entertaining bilingual collection of short stories that feature a creepy assortment of Mexican-inspired ghosts, witches, monsters, and more.

Each of the 12 chapters offers a different contemporary story following middle school–aged protagonists who come into contact with a frightening figure, like the infamous La Llorona—the weeping woman who appears near rivers and creeks looking for children to claim as her own—or the lesser-known duendes—green-skinned goblins that wreak havoc. Although some readers may be initially confused that each story focuses on a new set of characters, the separate tales make for ideal campfire or chapter-a-night read-alouds. As a bonus, all of the chapters are accompanied by an equally scary illustration of the spirits, brujas, and devils. Although all are written in clear, easy-to-access prose, a few of the stories stand out as particularly memorable: the titular showdown between La Llorona and the Donkey Lady as they fight to possess a disbelieving Margarito; the older-skewing "Tunnels," about Joe, who encounters a crime-fighting Chupacabras while exploring a border-town cave; and the eerie "Can I Keep Him?" in which Nikko adopts a dog with special powers. Bilingual readers can read the lightly macabre stories twice, since they repeat in Spanish after the last chapter.

Older middle-grade readers will find these Latin American horror stories deliciously short but spooky. (Short stories. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-55885-816-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Piñata Books/Arte Público

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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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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