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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A humorous homage that will appeal to lovers of quirky friendship stories.

BEST BABYSITTERS EVER

From the Best Babysitters Ever series , Vol. 1

Inspired by The Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin, three best friends start a babysitting business. Hijinks ensue.

In her middle-grade debut, Cala introduces readers to a new gang of best friends intent on making fast money by wrangling messy children. Malia (or “Alia,” according to her rebranding campaign) is a sporty girl with her sights set on throwing THE BEST joint birthday party ever with her two best friends, Bree and Dot. The only thing standing in their way is their lack of cash. Luck, or maybe fate (as Dot’s “yogi-slash-tarot-card-reader” mom might claim), leads Malia to a free copy of Kristy’s Great Idea—and inspiration strikes. It’s not all smooth sailing. At one point Malia rallies her friends by telling them “Dreams are everything in life! Without them, we’re just blobs with feet that go to school and do a bunch of stuff we don’t really want to do.” Thanks to witty banter, ample humor and excellent characterization, readers will enjoy following this group of young dreamers as they attempt to gain some independence in their preteen lives. Though at times the storytelling is a bit all over the place (the third-person narration alternates among the three), the characters are sincere and genuine. Cala delves into insecurities and worries that young readers will no doubt find familiar. Malia presents black and Dot presents white; “technically…half Jewish” Bree has “olive” skin and shiny black hair.

A humorous homage that will appeal to lovers of quirky friendship stories. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85089-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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A massive explosion at the end only sets that evil scheme back a bit; stay tuned for further strange and exhilarating...

COLD CEREAL

From the Cold Cereal Saga series , Vol. 1

A motley assortment of human experimental subjects and faerie exiles take on a New Jersey cereal company run by eldritch management for nefarious purposes.

With an off-the-wall sensibility that fans of the author’s True Meaning of Smekday (2007) will recognize with delight, Rex kicks off a planned trilogy. He brings together sixth-grade outsider Scottish Play Doe (an actor’s son, surprise), young genius Erno Utz and his even brighter supposed twin Emily, a crusty old leprechaun and like unconventional allies to be hunted by agents of the huge Goodco Cereal Company—producers of Burlap Crisp™, Honey Frosted Snox™. These and similar products enjoy a wild popularity that can be ascribed to the literal truth of the company motto: “There’s a Little Bit of Magic in Every Box!” The author tucks in portrait illustrations and hilariously odd TV-commercial storyboards, along with a hooded Secret Society, figures from Arthurian legend, magical spells and potions, a certain amount of violence, many wonderful throwaway lines (“Yeh may have a tarnished glamour about yeh, sure. Like a celebrity’s daughter.”) and tests of character with often surprising outcomes. All in all, it’s a mad scramble that culminates in the revelation of a dastardly plot that will require sequels to foil.

A massive explosion at the end only sets that evil scheme back a bit; stay tuned for further strange and exhilarating developments. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-206002-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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