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Brown, Jennifer Pennybaker School Is Headed For Disaster; illus. by Marta Kissi. Bloomsbury, 2017 304p
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-68119-174-4 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-68119-175-1 $11.99 R Gr. 4-6

Thomas Fallgrout is less than thrilled about starting at the “snooty-patootey” Pennybaker School for the Uniquely Gifted, where each student has a unique gift such mastering the art of clowning, chainsaw-juggling, or, in Thomas’s case, magic/alchemy. Now everyone, including his parents, believes he stole the beloved bust of the departed math teacher Helen Heirmauser’s head. Strike one: he’s the only one who resists the fascination with Heirmauser the person or the head; strike two: he’s a magician, so naturally he could make the head disappear. Perfectly irrational thinking spreads like wildfire, making Thomas a pariah and fueling his determination to solve the mystery, unmask the brain behind the missing noggin, and restore his rep. Characters are purposely over the top but the interaction between people reads genuine, and that “no one understands me” feeling is a relatable sentiment. Brown successfully relays two big lessons for youth: that our gifts are what make us us, no matter how peculiar, and going against the grain takes guts. There’s no shortage of fun, and young readers will be encouraged to embrace their inner weirdness by the book’s end. Occasional monochromatic illustrations are slyly comedic.



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