GIRLS ACTING CATTY

On the heels of Boys Are Dogs (2008), in which sixth grader Annabelle learned to control negative boy behavior with dog-training tips, comes this sequel, in which she discovers that girls can be very catty. Taylor and her entourage are a particular problem: They’re the “populars,” who all but terrorize the just-average girls who make up the majority of their junior high school. Inexplicably, given that Annabelle has come from an all-girls school, this cattiness is a new discovery for her, as she walks a fine line between earning Taylor’s ire and alienating her true friends. Secondary issues include her mom’s upcoming (and first) marriage and her future stepfather’s hunky son’s moving in, inspiring a serious crush. This average effort lacks the ironic humor of Annabelle’s first outing with its useful dog (boy) manual advice. Annabelle’s first-person voice rings true enough, but all others are stock characters, and the outcome is predictable. While an important topic, it has been covered innumerable times, and there’s no new insight here. Purchase if Annabelle’s first appearance was a hit. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59990-237-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2009

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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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ONE CRAZY SUMMER

A flight from New York to Oakland, Calif., to spend the summer of 1968 with the mother who abandoned Delphine and her two sisters was the easy part. Once there, the negative things their grandmother had said about their mother, Cecile, seem true: She is uninterested in her daughters and secretive about her work and the mysterious men in black berets who visit. The sisters are sent off to a Black Panther day camp, where Delphine finds herself skeptical of the worldview of the militants while making the best of their situation. Delphine is the pitch-perfect older sister, wise beyond her years, an expert at handling her siblings: “Just like I know how to lift my sisters up, I also knew how to needle them just right.” Each girl has a distinct response to her motherless state, and Williams-Garcia provides details that make each characterization crystal clear. The depiction of the time is well done, and while the girls are caught up in the difficulties of adults, their resilience is celebrated and energetically told with writing that snaps off the page. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-076088-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2010

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