Great fun for anyone “wordly-wise.” (list of words by language, index) (Informational picture book. 8-12)

OTHER-WORDLY

WORDS BOTH STRANGE AND LOVELY FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Words and definitions beloved by the author and representing 18 languages are arranged from one to three per page, accompanied by watercolor illustrations in subdued tones of russets, grays, greens, and browns.

Smack-dab in the middle, “smultronställe” has a solo gig: “lit. ‘place of wild strawberries’; a special place discovered, treasured, returned to for solace and relaxation; a personal idyll free from stress or sadness.” A blonde, white girl rests among grasses and strawberries, and a bouquet of strawberry fruits and blossoms decorates the opposing page. The book’s first words evoke dawn, and near the end are nocturnal and love-related words. In between are words and phrases with other themes, ranging from practical to philosophical and from nouns to adjectives. The many people populating the pages have pleasant, if generic, features; skin and hair types are reasonably diverse, though white figures predominate. Many of the words evoke humorous art, as in the pairing of the Japanese words “tatemae” and “honne,” or pretended versus true beliefs; one shows people in an elevator presenting a careful face to the world, while the other depicts the same people on a balcony, demonstrating “what a person truly believes.” Two small criticisms: the key to abbreviations is, oddly, in the back of the book, and there is no pronunciation guide. Accessible text and appealing artwork prime readers for such relatively more verbose larks as Ursula Dubosarsky and Tohby Riddle’s The Word Snoop (2009).

Great fun for anyone “wordly-wise.” (list of words by language, index) (Informational picture book. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4521-2534-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid.

JAKE THE FAKE KEEPS IT REAL

From the Jake the Fake series , Vol. 1

Black sixth-grader Jake Liston can only play one song on the piano. He can’t read music very well, and he can’t improvise. So how did Jake get accepted to the Music and Art Academy? He faked it.

Alongside an eclectic group of academy classmates, and with advice from his best friend, Jake tries to fit in at a school where things like garbage sculpting and writing art reviews of bird poop splatter are the norm. All is well until Jake discovers that the end-of-the-semester talent show is only two weeks away, and Jake is short one very important thing…talent. Or is he? It’s up to Jake to either find the talent that lies within or embarrass himself in front of the entire school. Light and humorous, with Knight’s illustrations adding to the fun, Jake’s story will likely appeal to many middle-grade readers, especially those who might otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book. While the artsy antics may be over-the-top at times, this is a story about something that most preteens can relate to: the struggle to find your authentic self. And in a world filled with books about wanting to fit in with the athletically gifted supercliques, this novel unabashedly celebrates the artsy crowd in all of its quirky, creative glory.

A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-52351-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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