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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Wonderful, indeed

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  • New York Times Bestseller

THE WONDERFUL THINGS YOU WILL BE

A GROWING-UP POEM

A love song to baby with delightful illustrations to boot.

Sweet but not saccharine and singsong but not forced, Martin’s text is one that will invite rereadings as it affirms parental wishes for children while admirably keeping child readers at its heart. The lines that read “This is the first time / There’s ever been you, / So I wonder what wonderful things / You will do” capture the essence of the picture book and are accompanied by a diverse group of babies and toddlers clad in downright adorable outfits. Other spreads include older kids, too, and pictures expand on the open text to visually interpret the myriad possibilities and hopes for the depicted children. For example, a spread reading “Will you learn how to fly / To find the best view?” shows a bespectacled, school-aged girl on a swing soaring through an empty white background. This is just one spread in which Martin’s fearless embrace of the white of the page serves her well. Throughout the book, she maintains a keen balance of layout choices, and surprising details—zebras on the wallpaper behind a father cradling his child, a rock-’n’-roll band of mice paralleling the children’s own band called “The Missing Teeth”—add visual interest and gentle humor. An ideal title for the baby-shower gift bag and for any nursery bookshelf or lap-sit storytime.

Wonderful, indeed . (Picture book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37671-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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