Wonderfully weird and extremely entertaining.

STRANGEVILLE SCHOOL IS TOTALLY NORMAL

From the Strangeville School series , Vol. 1

New fifth grade student Harvey Hill discovers Strangeville School more than lives up to its name.

After attending four different schools in the space of four years, Harvey is familiar with the role of new kid. However, he’s not prepared for the bizarre and peculiar happenings that Strangeville students and staff find routine, like dangerous animals on the loose, a black hole in the cafeteria meatloaf, and mysterious disappearances orchestrated by a sinister force. Thankfully, he has classmate Stella Cho to help him navigate these increasingly surreal situations. Stella and Harvey can both relate to feeling like outsiders. Stella hides her loneliness behind defensive armor, while Harvey’s barrier in making friends is due to a closely guarded secret. The two initially stumble through their friendship but soon learn the value of camaraderie and support. Harvey’s self-acceptance is empowering and allows him to reach new heights to save the school. While the plot is solidly sci-fi, real-world issues like insecurity, friendship, and embracing what makes you different ground the story. The deadpan third-person omniscient narration, which includes frequent asides to readers, is infused with quirky and irreverent humor. Short, action-packed chapters and abundant illustrations add to the appeal. Harvey reads as White; Stella’s surname cues her as Korean American. Final illustrations not seen.

Wonderfully weird and extremely entertaining. (Science fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30950-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.

HORRIBLE HARRY SAYS GOODBYE

From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A long-running series reaches its closing chapters.

Having, as Kline notes in her warm valedictory acknowledgements, taken 30 years to get through second and third grade, Harry Spooger is overdue to move on—but not just into fourth grade, it turns out, as his family is moving to another town as soon as the school year ends. The news leaves his best friend, narrator “Dougo,” devastated…particularly as Harry doesn’t seem all that fussed about it. With series fans in mind, the author takes Harry through a sort of last-day-of-school farewell tour. From his desk he pulls a burned hot dog and other items that featured in past episodes, says goodbye to Song Lee and other classmates, and even (for the first time ever) leads Doug and readers into his house and memento-strewn room for further reminiscing. Of course, Harry isn’t as blasé about the move as he pretends, and eyes aren’t exactly dry when he departs. But hardly is he out of sight before Doug is meeting Mohammad, a new neighbor from Syria who (along with further diversifying a cast that began as mostly white but has become increasingly multiethnic over the years) will also be starting fourth grade at summer’s end, and planning a written account of his “horrible” buddy’s exploits. Finished illustrations not seen.

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47963-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is...

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CRENSHAW

Applegate tackles homelessness in her first novel since 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan.

Hunger is a constant for soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson and his family, and the accompanying dizziness may be why his imaginary friend is back. A giant cat named Crenshaw first appeared after Jackson finished first grade, when his parents moved the family into their minivan for several months. Now they’re facing eviction again, and Jackson’s afraid that he won’t be going to school next year with his friend Marisol. When Crenshaw shows up on a surfboard, Jackson, an aspiring scientist who likes facts, wonders whether Crenshaw is real or a figment of his imagination. Jackson’s first-person narrative moves from the present day, when he wishes that his parents understood that he’s old enough to hear the truth about the family’s finances, to the first time they were homeless and back to the present. The structure allows readers access to the slow buildup of Jackson’s panic and his need for a friend and stability in his life. Crenshaw tells Jackson that “Imaginary friends don’t come of their own volition. We are invited. We stay as long as we’re needed.” The cat’s voice, with its adult tone, is the conduit for the novel’s lessons: “You need to tell the truth, my friend….To the person who matters most of all.”

Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is nevertheless a somberly affecting one . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04323-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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