TOYS!

AMAZING STORIES BEHIND SOME GREAT INVENTIONS

Wulffson follows up The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle (1997) with the sometimes quirky tales behind more than two dozen novelties, gadgets and games, from playing cards and wind-up toys to Play-Doh. Some (tops, seesaws) have long histories, some (whoopee cushions) only seem to have been around forever, and some (Trivial Pursuit) are of recent vintage. The author brushes in their origins and variations with broad strokes, livening the picture further with factoids at each chapter’s end, and Keller’s gnomic, black-and-white cartoon figures lighten the tone further by cracking wise on the side. The generalizations may sometimes shade over into oversimplifications (“There is even an Asian religion based on kite flying”), and there is nothing about Pokémon or other current crazes, but these accounts of the origins of super balls, Raggedy Ann, Legos, Twister, Pong and the like will give middle graders new insight into their parents’ misspent youths—and a bibliography and a list of Web sites will give readers who want all the details a head start. (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8050-6196-7

Page Count: 137

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

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THE YEAR OF MISS AGNES

In 1948 the unorthodox Miss Agnes arrives to teach the children of an Athabascan Indian Village in remote Alaska. Ten-year-old Fred (Fredrika) matter-of-factly narrates this story of how a teacher transformed the school. Miss Agnes’s one-room schoolhouse is a progressive classroom, where the old textbooks are stored away first thing upon her arrival. The children learn to read using handmade books that are about their own village and lives: winter trapping camps, tanning moose hides, fishing, and curing the catch, etc. Math is a lesson on how not to get cheated when selling animal pelts. These young geographers learn about the world on a huge map that covers one whole schoolhouse wall. Fred is pitch-perfect in her observations of the village residents. “Little Pete made a picture of his dad’s trapline cabin . . . He was proud of that picture, I could tell, because he kept making fun of it.” Hill (Winter Camp, 1993, etc.) creates a community of realistically unique adults and children that is rich in the detail of their daily lives. Big Pete is as small and scrappy, as his son Little Pete is huge, gentle, and kind. Fred’s 12-year-old deaf sister, Bokko, has her father’s smile and has never gone to school until Miss Agnes. Charlie-Boy is so physically adept at age 6 that he is the best runner, thrower, and catcher of all the children. These are just a few of the residents in this rural community. The school year is not without tension. Will Bokko continue in school? Will Mama stay angry with Miss Agnes? And most important, who will be their teacher after Miss Agnes leaves? A quiet, yet satisfying account. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-689-82933-7

Page Count: 128

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2000

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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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