Strangeville School Is Totally Normal

Random. (Strangeville School: Bk. 1). Dec. 2021. 256p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780593309506.
Gr 4-7–Fifth grader and budding photographer Harvey Hill is the new kid at Strangeville School. With freckles and average elbows, Harvey seems perfectly normal—except he is guarding a mysterious secret. Strangeville, on the other hand, is the opposite of normal, with crocodiles roaming the hallways, a rat named Cuddles who is growing at an alarming rate due to a science fair mishap, and an evil lizard named Mr. Pickles with his own sinister plans, among other oddities. Harvey befriends Stella Cho, lead reporter of the school paper, and together they become wrapped up in the mystery of the dangerous Supply Closet on the third floor, which is responsible for the disappearances of several students and teachers over the years. In the same vein as Louis Sachar’s “Wayside School,” this tale offers a blend of dark humor, quirky characters, and strange happenings. Although the unusual encounters and odd bits of trivia seem random, there is continuity within the narrative and with the characterizations. Harvey, despite seeming average (especially when compared to his classmates and teachers at Strangeville), is an endearing character who’s easy to root for. He plays well off his cohort, Stella, who remains calm and matter-of-fact, even when faced with giant, mutated rats and meatloaf made from black holes. The mystery surrounding the Supply Closet concludes in an appropriately extravagant and bizarre manner, as does the reveal of Harvey’s big secret. Harvey is cued as white, while Stella is cued as Asian American.
VERDICT Give this offbeat and irreverent book to young readers who like dark comedy, eccentric characters, and off-the-wall storytelling.

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