The Kids of Cattywampus Street

Lisa Jahn-Clough, illus. by Natalie Andrewson. Random/Schwartz, $16.99 (128p) ISBN 978-0-593-12756-8

In the vein of Louis Sachar’s Wayside School books, this nonsequential collection of strange and magical adventures devotes a chapter each to a variously inclusive group of 11 children who live on Cattywampus Street. Addressing the reader directly, the narrator tells the stories of “mystery kid” Bob, who lives in a “box on the other side of the tracks” and undergoes a surprising transformation; “downright mean machine” Lindalee, whose friends don’t recognize her when her disposition improves; and Charlotta, whose desire for a dollhouse her family can’t afford leads to uncanny changes in their domestic arrangements. Links between the chapters are often tenuous, but some connections reveal surprises as they unfold, and the dusty Waddlebee Toy Store, positioned at the end of the street’s paved portion, figures prominently as an intriguing nexus of both creepiness and delight. Art by Andrewson (The Nutcracker and the Mouse King), which includes a map of the “twisted and rambling” street, has verve reminiscent of Benjamin Chaud illustrations. Jahn-Clough’s (Petal and Poppy) first foray into middle grade, which is sometimes tonally uneven, offers a range of modes—“odd or mysterious, silly or scary, happy or even sad”—to suit any mood. Ages 7–10. [em]Illustrator’s agent: Jen Linnan, Linnan Literary. (July) [/em]
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