THE BOY WHO OWNED THE SCHOOL

A COMEDY OF LOVE

A total surprise from the award-winning author of, most recently, The Winter Room (1989, Newbery Honor): a comic, accessible novel about a classic 15-year-old klutz. Slight, quiet, and much brighter than his dismal grades imply, Jacob has focused his talents on the art of being invisible and thus avoiding the jocks, of whom he is the quintessential victim. Despite his efforts, though, he's noticed by a teacher who drafts him to run the fog machine for a production of The Wizard of Oz. Hopelessly enamored of Maria, the popular, genuinely nice girl who plays the witch, Jacob panics at the chance of getting to know her, manages (like the Phantom of the Opera) to keep out of sight as usual, fouls up completely (and hilariously) in his not-so-simple theatrical task—and discovers, finally, that Maria likes him, too. Since this is a Paulsen book, there's another level here. Jacob is so self-involved that he's oblivious to the subtleties of others' motives and assumes that he's the lowest in every pecking order—which is only partly true, and true in that part because he himself perpetuates it. The book is deftly constructed, the brief chapters like the blush strokes of a master painter, with remarkably apt sketches of minor characters (Uncle Frank, "tough as nails," looks "like a spark plug"). A perceptive portrait of a kid on the verge of getting out of his self-set trap of imagining any change as a threat—even change for the better: a memorably funny yet touching farce.

Pub Date: March 1, 1990

ISBN: 0440405246

Page Count: -

Publisher: Orchard/Watts

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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THE ONE AND ONLY BOB

Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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