A disappointing affirmation of the status quo

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THE SECRET OF THE PURPLE LAKE

Five intertwined short stories all involve journeys that rarely conclude at home.

In “The Fisherman’s Daughter,” set in the Ghana Empire, Ajuba prefers fishing with her father over helping her mother. When Ajuba’s father dies at sea, Nana, the wise woman, says the sea also wants Ajuba. The villagers give her to the sea, where she must accomplish several monumental tasks and return her father’s bones to the village. Eventually Ajuba becomes a Mami-Wata—a mermaid. Aspects of this tale are further explored in the volume’s third and fourth tales, and the second and fifth tales similarly connect. Despite fantastical plots, the places are real—and all over the place: Ghana, Senegal, Scotland, the California coast, etc. Despite this, the stories fail as world stories, as gender and cultural stereotypes abound: the Norse king’s masculinist insistence on bearing a son prompts him to mistreat his wife; the Cherokee Indian who comes to Orkney to woo a princess arrives with a troupe of dancing bears and leaves in a magic canoe; and a Sikh prince from India wears a “fat orange turban” and a cashmere rug. In the end, compulsory heterosexuality reigns, and even the women who seem to have options don’t. The watercolor images will help readers imagine the unimaginable plots, but they add little to the stories.

A disappointing affirmation of the status quo . (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-911115-31-1

Page Count: 122

Publisher: Cassava Republic Press

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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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SWINDLE

From the Swindle series , Vol. 1

Eleven-year-old Griffin Bing is “the man with the plan.” If something needs doing, Griffin carefully plans a fix and his best friend Ben usually gets roped in as assistant. When the town council ignores his plan for a skate park on the grounds of the soon-to-be demolished Rockford House, Griffin plans a camp-out in the house. While there, he discovers a rare Babe Ruth baseball card. His family’s money worries are suddenly a thing of the past, until unscrupulous collectables dealer S. Wendell Palomino swindles him. Griffin and Ben plan to snatch the card back with a little help. Pet-lover Savannah whispers the blood-thirsty Doberman. Rock-climber “Pitch” takes care of scaling the house. Budding-actor Logan distracts the nosy neighbor. Computer-expert Melissa hacks Palomino’s e-mail and the house alarm. Little goes according to plan, but everything turns out all right in this improbable but fun romp by the prolific and always entertaining Korman. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-439-90344-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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