Books by Brian Floca

MOONSHOT by Brian Floca
Released: April 9, 2019

"Still essential reading, more so than ever for being broader in scope and more balanced of presentation than the original. (Informational picture book. 7-12)"
A fresh, expanded edition of Floca's top-drawer tribute to the first moon landing, which won a Sibert honor in 2010. Read full book review >
HAWK RISING by Maria Gianferrari
Released: June 5, 2018

"An absorbing reminder that we need never look far to see wild, beautiful nature. (Informational picture book. 6-9)"
A male red-tailed hawk leaves a nest full of hatchlings to scout a suburban neighborhood for prey. Read full book review >
Released: March 28, 2017

"A clever tale packed with wry wit and charming illustrations. (Illustrated fantasy. 6-9)"
Princess Cora, tired of her young life as a queen-in-training, asks her fairy godmother for a pet—with unexpected results. Read full book review >
by Avi, illustrated by Brian Floca
Released: Aug. 4, 2015

"Overall, a fine tale that will benefit from being sifted for all its meanings. (Fiction. 8-13)"
A modern-day fable intertwines the stories of a young boy and an old wolf. Read full book review >
Released: May 13, 2014

"A lovely if incomplete story of animals and humans living together. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-9)"
Can you imagine living in a city with an enormous elephant seal in residence? Read full book review >
LOCOMOTIVE by Brian Floca
Released: Sept. 3, 2013

"Nothing short of spectacular, just like the journey it describes. (Informational picture book. 4-10)"
Floca took readers to the moon with the Apollo 11 mission in Moonshot (2009); now he takes them across the country on an equally historic journey of 100 years earlier. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2012

"A quick, amusing read with an easily digestible environmental message; it is a perfect match for its young intended audience. (Fiction. 6-9)"
Third-grader Marty and her classmates are given a challenge by a visiting environmentalist: to develop Earth-friendly projects that she will then judge. Read full book review >
MARTY MCGUIRE by Kate Messner
Released: May 1, 2011

"Believable and endearing characters in a realistic elementary-school setting will be just the thing for fans of Clementine and Ramona. (Fiction. 7-10)"
When the promised land of third grade does not pan as promised, Marty McGuire finds herself playing a completely new role. Read full book review >
BALLET FOR MARTHA by Jan Greenberg
Released: Aug. 3, 2010

Appalachian Spring, the modern dance that celebrates the wedding of a Pioneer Woman and her Husbandman, is a brilliantly conceived and enduring paean to American frontier life. It premiered in 1944 with choreography by the innovative Martha Graham, music by Aaron Copland, a child of Eastern European immigrants, and sets by Isamu Noguchi, the Japanese-American sculptor who voluntarily went into a World War II internment camp. The award-winning Greenberg and Jordan tell the story of this collaboration, which began when Copland composed music he entitled "Ballet for Martha." Through the use of active sentences in the present tense and brief quotes, the authors convey the excitement and drama of the creative process and the triumph of the ballet. Floca, a multiple Sibert Award honoree for his prowess in depicting the technical worlds of spaceships and lightships, here uses watercolor and pen-and-ink in a glorious depiction of modern dance movement, with its quiet hand gestures, dramatic leg kicks and the swirl of dancers "fluttering, skittering, reaching up to the sky." A stunning achievement. Archival photographs embellish the biographical notes at the end—a lovely touch. (bibliography, notes) (Informational picture book. 6-10)Read full book review >
THE TRUE GIFT by Patricia MacLachlan
Released: Oct. 6, 2009

Newbery Medalist MacLachlan offers a quietly moving Christmas story that illustrates the power of children to change their world. Lily, the first-person narrator, and her younger brother, Liam, spend every Christmas vacation at their grandparents' farm. Liam wants to buy a cow as a companion for the family's pet, White Cow, who seems lonely out in the field by herself. By Christmas Eve, Liam has raised enough money to buy a calf companion, but there is also a Christmas surprise of several cow visitors brought by neighbors to keep White Cow company for the holiday. MacLachlan uses her typical taciturn style featuring dialogue and minimal description to convey the intense feelings of the sensitive little boy trying to accomplish a seemingly impossible task. Floca's delicate, full-page pencil illustrations complement the text with understated emotion. (Fiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
by Avi, illustrated by Brian Floca
Released: May 1, 2009

Avi bills this as the final episode in the series and burns down Dimwood Forest to underscore the claim—but since all but one of the characters survive at the end, there's no reason to believe him. When the elderly Poppy is carried away by a young bat, her gruff friend, Ereth the porcupine, thinks her dead and organizes a funeral. While she's making friends with the bats in their distant cave and then trying to find her way back home, a lightning strike touches off a blaze in dry Dimwood. Cutting back and forth in short chapters from Poppy to the grieving Ereth to runty but intrepid Spruce, one of Poppy's many grandchildren, the author weaves several plotlines together in time for the smoky, exciting climax. There are no villains here to crank up the melodrama, but several cliffhangers, quick pacing and a lively cast more than compensate. Several figures from previous adventures pass in review, either in flesh or in Poppy and Ereth's memories, but that's not enough to create any convincing sense of closure. There's life in the old series yet. (Fantasy. 10-12)Read full book review >
MOONSHOT by Brian Floca
Released: April 7, 2009

A dizzying, masterful command of visual pacing combines with an acute sense of verbal rhythms to provide a glorious account of the Apollo 11 mission, one that stands as the must-buy in this crowded lunar season. Each page turn presents a surprise: A spread with six horizontal panels showing rocket, bystanders and astronauts during countdown yields to a close-up of the thrusters firing at liftoff and then to a perfectly sublime long shot that positions a tiny Saturn V rocket pulling away from the launch pad above a serenely massive Earth, its curve clearly visible in the horizon of the blue Atlantic—"ROAR." Floca's language, in one of his longer texts, is equally gorgeous: "And when the Earth / has rolled beneath / and rolled behind / and let the astronauts go, / the Saturn's last stage opens wide..." Humor lightly applied provides the necessary grounding touch to this larger-than-human endeavor without ever taking away its sense of moment. The front endpapers give detail-loving readers diagrams and a pictorial chronology; the back endpapers contain a brief history of NASA's lunar program. Breathtaking, thrilling and perfect. (Informational picture book. 7-12)Read full book review >
THE HINKY PINK by Megan McDonald
Released: Sept. 16, 2008

Extraordinary seamstress Anabel wants to work for a true princess, one with beautiful features and a name ending in "ella." When Princess Isabella Caramella Gorgonzola soils her dress before the ball, she gives Anabel a week to create a designer gown while working in the princess's tower. Each night, an unknown creature pinches the seamstress and interrupts her slumber. Nursemaid Mag advises the girl that the Hinky-Pink goblin causes her unrest and will only end her torment—and give her the chance to finish the dress—if Anabel makes the creature a bed of its own, but each attempt dramatically fails. McDonald's storytelling excels through flavorful language, controlled pacing and a delightful conclusion. Floca displays the charm of Old World Florence through soft watercolor-and-ink illustrations that fill the pages, capturing the city's world-renowned landmarks. His delicate lines, full of vitality, enhance the retelling of this tale, which was inspired by Margery Bailey's 1940 story, The Bed Just So. Fairy-tale enthusiasts will delight in this fanciful story. (Fiction. 5-8) Read full book review >
LIGHTSHIP by Brian Floca
Kirkus Star
by Brian Floca, illustrated by Brian Floca
Released: March 6, 2007

Floca creates both suspense and poetry in this tribute to the anchored lightships that once warned ships away from hazards on the North American coast. Beginning with, "Here is a ship that holds her place," he introduces viewers to a crew of nine, plus a cat, then shows that crew performing routine tasks both topside and down below as they wait, but for what? When the weather worsens, that question is answered; on come the bright lamp and the deafening foghorn: "Then other ships sail safely, / because the lightship marks the way / through fog and night, / past rocks and shoals, / past reefs and wrecks, / past danger." Using the Ambrose, a New York museum ship, as his model, the author presents an array of cutaways, views from above, glimpses of the engine room, john and kitchen, as well as showing the steadfast vessel floating on glassy seas and tossed by waves. Together, the pictures and the brief, measured text lend these utilitarian, no-longer-active vessels a heroic aspect that will resonate with all young fans of ships and the sea. (afterword) (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-7)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2005

Johnny loves his Uncle Silas, his mule Nell and the cows he herds back and forth each day. But he does not love being a slave. And when Uncle Silas plants the idea of service in the Union army in Johnny's brain, it's pretty easy for him to join up with Company C as it marches through the Hogatt farm. Adding to the Ready-to-Read early reading series, Hopkinson brings her research and storytelling talents to another little-known chapter in U.S. history for children. Floca's simple, flat watercolors match the straightforward prose, and the blue-washed night scenes match the tension as Johnny performs an act of heroism to save the company. Though the acceptance the white soldiers show to their new recruit seems unreal, a helpful author's note documents the kindness of these particular Union soldiers. Young Civil War buffs will welcome something they can read themselves. (Nonfiction. 5-8)Read full book review >
by Avi, illustrated by Brian Floca
Released: Aug. 1, 2005

Avi's intrepid deer mouse sets out for a visit home in this fifth Dimwood Forest adventure, taking along her mutinously adolescent son Ragweed Junior in hopes of promoting some bonding. The ominous news that a bulldozer (owned by the "Derrida Deconstruction Company,") has been parked next to Gray House, the ramshackle farmhouse where Poppy's pompous father and his multitudinous descendants still live, prompts the trip. Thanks to her previous exploits, Poppy arrives to a hero's welcome, but barely has time to do more than organize a frantic evacuation before, in a slapstick climax, Junior, his (literally) unsavory buddy Mephitis the skunk and trash-mouthed Ereth the porcupine manage to start up the 'dozer and convert the house into a pile of kindling—which is to say, a mouse condo. The plot, though, takes second fiddle to the author's proposition that parents too can be "Sick," (i.e., cool) and teens, despite unappealing personal habits, not quite as hopeless as they might seem. Well, it's a worthy thought, and, well supplied with Floca's ground-level vignettes, agreeably presented. (Fiction. 10-12)Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2005

Tiny but tough, Bartleby the red-eared turtle is back. His friendship with Seezer the alligator, cemented by their long trip down the Mississippi and the shared menace of the current occupants of Seezer's native bayou, is threatened by a dry spell in their new home in a cypress swamp. Furthermore, his lady friend, the beautiful Lucky Gal, has disappeared into the woods. Captured and confined in a restaurant fountain, Bartleby is happy to find Lucky Gal there, too, but misses his freedom. Throughout this simply told story, Bartleby's perseverance and his ability to make friendships pay off, as he escapes from the formidable Old Stump and his three guard gators, the easy life of captivity and a wily and hungry alligator garfish. Readers of Bartleby's earlier adventures in Bartleby of the Mighty Mississippi will find this similarly satisfying. Floca's lush black-and-white drawings introduce each section and a map that illustrates the neighborhood. (Fiction. 8-11)Read full book review >
BILLY AND THE REBEL by Deborah Hopkinson
Released: March 1, 2005

In this upper-level Easy Reader, a young Confederate deserter repays with a courageous act the Gettysburg family that shelters him. As the great battle rages nearby, Billy and his mother huddle anxiously in their farmhouse—joined in the night by a trembling young soldier who begs asylum. Dressed in new clothes and warned not to speak lest his accent give him away, the fugitive silently helps when marauding soldiers demand food, then as the defeated southern army retreats, rescues Billy, who recklessly antagonizes a passing horseman. Floca depicts the young folk and the farm, but not the battle itself, in sketchy watercolors; Hopkinson follows up with a note explaining that the episode is based on a true story. The theme of friendship across lines of antagonism will kindle deep responses in more than just students of the Civil War. (map) (Easy reader. 7-9)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2004

The best answer yet to that perennial question: what do Santa's reindeer do during the off season? As her seven antlered uncles arrive, young Octavia counts them off: Uncle Uno's a skier: "He has one <\b>hat. / He has one <\b>vest. He wears one <\b>stopwatch on his chest." Uncle Duce's an Elvis impersonator with two wigs, two boots, etc.; Uncle Trey's a diver, and so on—but all gather once a year to set up the tree, get the gifts wrapped, and to confirm that she's their favorite niece. Floca illustrates their arrival in simply drawn, splashy watercolors featuring cheery, pop-eyed figures sporting a variety of costumes and head-racks. Once the clan has gathered, and Santa steps on stage to take a bow, "We change our clothes. / We hitch the sleigh. / We're ready now. . . . / We're on our way!" <\b>Who wouldn't want to ride along? (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2003

On the title spread, a 1901 Ford bears down on the reader, its determined driver bent on speed—the first of many to come. Alliterative statements take readers through the alphabet and a hundred years of racecars: "Eyes in the audience, each open and eager, expecting excitement (enduring exhaust). / Flat feared and fought, the driver's foe" accompanies a double-page spread of 1920s-era racegoers watching as five cars blur by—and one driver kicks a flat tire in frustration. A variety of startling perspectives aided by loose ink drawings and streaky watercolors create an astonishing sense of movement and speed. The humor inherent in much of the text—"X-ray after an accident. / ‘Yelp!' "—may be lost on the preschool set, but not on the patient adults who will be asked to read this offering again—and again—and again. An enthusiastic author's note outlining the history of auto racing and endpapers depicting all the cars with years and makes provide some educational content, but it's the zooming spreads that drive this book. Hold on to your hats! (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

Central Park's furred and feathered residents face an incursion of gangster rats in this turn-of-the-20th-century tale of baseball, interspecies romance, and ingenuousness triumphant. The sudden appearance of Big Daddy Duds and his well-armed thugs compels Oscar Westerwit, a bon vivant squirrel who considers himself the park's unofficial "Mayor," to take action. His ragtag "army" is quickly dispersed, but unexpected allies have been at work behind the scenes, and persuade Oscar to play on Duds's predilection for baseball by challenging him to a winner-take-all game. With Oscar's new heartthrob Maud making a surprise appearance on the mound, the good guys come out on top, of course. Told in rollicking, streetwise language, the episode rolls fluidly along, and aside from one wounded rabbit the violence never escalates beyond threats—but there's more baseball talk than baseball action. Avi can do better than this predictable plot, and despite his habit of calling park residents "voters," and Floca's natty Wind in the Willows-type animal figures, any satiric or metaphorical subtext is buried beyond recovery. (Fiction. 10-12)Read full book review >
Released: May 31, 2000

The gruff but good-hearted porcupine of Avi's Poppy tales gets an adventure of his own, along with plenty of opportunities to fulminate. Spouting lines like "squirrel-splat soup" and "phooey and fried salamander spit with a side order of rat ribbon," Ereth stomps away from his musty log convinced that neighbor Poppy and her large family have forgotten his birthday. Back he comes a month later, having survived heavy snows, hunters' traps, a predatory fisher's attack, and a promise made to a dying fox to care for her three kits. Of course, he finds a delicious gift and a much-relieved troop of deer mice waiting. Avi makes Ereth's sometimes-hilarious efforts to mother the hyperactive young foxes both the story's centerpiece and a sharp commentary on absent fathers. The kits' errant but much-admired dad, appropriately named "Bounder," checks in after a full week to boot Ereth out; too self-centered to care about anyone else, he abandons the kits again the next day. Though the tale is not free of conveniently overheard conversations and other contrivances, it generally moves along at a good clip, builds to a dramatic climax, comes to a joyful close, and features a lively mix of characters and moods. Like Eeyore (with a temper), Ereth will be a source of amusement for his dark moods and gloomy outlook. (Fiction. 10-12)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2000

In 1922 Roy Chapman Andrews, noted dinosaur hunter from the Museum of Natural History, and a team of fossil hunters; set off for Outer Mongolia to discover evidence of human origin in Asia. Traveling the roadless Gobi desert by automobile, provisioned by caravans of camels, the paleontologists discovered not human remains, but dinosaurs and the first dinosaur eggs ever found. In this title, Floca (Five Trucks. 1999, etc.) takes the events and discoveries of the Central Asiatic Expedition and creates an `imagined or fictionalized` story. In doing so, he pioneers a new genre: historical science fiction. His writing, laced with actual events, invented dialogue and thoughts of the scientists, captures the quirky personalities of the hunters. But, it is the meticulously drawn watercolors which spark the imagination while enriching the text. Some of the most dramatic pages show the desert camp at night and the minute caravan winding its way through the vast sweep of the Gobi desert. The last page of text provides a time line and an afterward. Flap copy states that the author has done "extensive research for the book," however there is no evidence or documentation to that effect. Difficult to place, since it is cataloged in nonfiction, but is filled with fiction, this will appeal to dinosaur fans willing to accept made-up conversations because the story is a compelling one. (Nonfiction. 10-12)Read full book review >
FIVE TRUCKS by Brian Floca
Released: April 1, 1999

Floca (The Frightful Story of Harry Walfish, 1997, etc.) offers a great explication of the small trucks that airline passengers see scurrying around jets on the runways. In brightly painted illustrations and simple descriptions, he introduces each vehicle, explains what it does, and shows it in action, e.g., the truck called the baggage conveyor is shown hoisting suitcases into the belly of the plane. All five trucks' duties point to a big finale when the plane takes off. Given preschoolers' well-documented fascination with heavy machinery, this book will strike a chord with young air travelers, and answer the questions of older travelers as well. (Picture book. 6-10) Read full book review >
by Avi, illustrated by Brian Floca
Released: June 1, 1998

Still grieving over the loss of her beau Ragweed of Poppy (1995), the intrepid deer mouse decides to bring the sad news to his family in this uneven, heavy-handed sequel. Setting out from Dimwood Forest with her hopelessly infatuated porcupine friend, Ereth, Poppy arrives just in time to help Ragweed's parents and numerous siblings avert eviction. Led by ruthless Caster P. Canad, a crew of beavers has dammed up the nearby brook in preparation for a housing project. The mice have already been flooded out of one home, and their new one is about to be threatened. Saddened—but also secretly relieved to be out from under his brother's shadow—dreamy Rye dashes out to see what he can do against the beavers, and is quickly captured. Having fallen in love with him at first sight, Poppy organizes a rescue, urging the meek mice to fight back; they do. The bad guys silently depart, and Poppy and Rye set a date. Avi develops his characters to a level of complexity that provides a distracting contrast with the simplistic story, an obvious take on human land-use disputes, and easily distinguishable victims and villains. In language more ugly than colorful, Ereth chews over his feelings for Poppy in several plot-stopping passages, and is last seen accompanying the happy couple back to Dimwood. Readers may wonder who to root for in this disappointing follow-up to one of the best animal stories in years. (Fiction. 10-12) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 23, 1997

A boy describes his collection of feathers to an inexplicably engrossed girl. Adapted from the author's song, ``I Collect Feathers, I Collect Rocks,'' to picture-book form, the story is told in banal rhyme: ``I'm counting feathers two by two; I've got so many more to do. I bet you I could fill a truck! Hey, look at this one—thank you, Duck!'' After a sneeze rearranges the feathers, the boy, about eight, switches to collecting rocks, and on the last page, finds in postage stamps the perfect collectible. Floca's ink-and-watercolor illustrations enliven many of the scenes with humorous details—e.g., a giant ladder leading up to drawers that store the collection—and occasionally steal the show: Posters in the boy's room, showing his range of interests from Stonehenge to icebergs, convey the character in more concise and interesting terms than those found in text. (Picture book. 5-7) Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1997

For his first solo outing, Floca (illustrator of Avi's Poppy, 1995) has created a whopper that operates on a number of levels: as a zoological exploration, as a wry cautionary tale, and as a story of just deserts. Rambunctious young Harry Walfish, whose legend lives on in the tale delivered by Ms. Leonard-Brakthurst to her rowdy charges at the Natural History Museum, made an extraordinary pest of himself when his class visited that very same institution. Harry, following a day of havoc, is inadvertently locked in the museum when it closes for the night; the exhibits come to life and scare the willies out of him. When he is finally rescued, he is a new Harry—a quiet Harry, permanently humbled. Ms. Leonard- Brakthurst's class, not surprisingly, shifts into a quiet mode, too. Floca drolly insinuates a wonderful bestiary into the story—from the rufous-rumped woodhewer (``Xiphorhynchus erythropygius, I believe,'' notes Ms. Leonard-Brakthurst) to a pygmy marmoset (Callithrix pygmaea), while his crisp, animated watercolors add to the fun. (Picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >
JENIUS by Dick King-Smith
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

In a book subtitled "The Amazing Guinea Pig," Judy is determined to show everyone that guinea pigs aren't lacking in brain power. She gets her chance when her pets produce a "child of their old age." Jenius (Judy doesn't spell "correcktly") is reared to be "the best-trained, most brilliant guinea pig in the whole world," proud of his easy mastery of dog tricks and even able to unlatch his own hutch from inside (resulting in a near- fatal brush with a tomcat). His "swelled head" annoys his parents who seem preoccupied with each other and who laugh at their son when he flubs his big performance on Pet's Day. In what is meant to be a humorous parallel, Judy's parents are equally dismissive of her—"Buzz off now, there's a girl." In the end, Judy's father may have to eat his hat (and Jenius's father, a plastic water bottle) but this cleverly constructed, easy reading fantasy by King-Smith (Mr. Potter's Pet, p. 532, etc.) is not up to his best. (Fiction. 7-9)Read full book review >
POPPY by Avi
by Avi, illustrated by Brian Floca
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

An adolescent mouse named Poppy is off on a romantic tryst with her rebel boyfriend when they are attacked by Mr. Ocax, the owl who rules over the area. He kills the boyfriend, but Poppy escapes and Mr. Ocax vows to catch her. Mr. Ocax has convinced all the mice that he is their protector when, in fact, he preys on them mercilessly. When the mice ask his permission to move to a new house, he refuses, blaming Poppy for his decision. Poppy suspects that there is another reason Mr. Ocax doesn't want them to move and investigates to clear her name. With the help of a prickly old porcupine and her quick wits, Poppy defeats her nemesis and her own fears, saving her family in the bargain. The book is a cute, but rather standard offering from Avi (Tom, Babette, and Simon, p. 776, etc.). (Fiction. 9-11) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

Complications abound in a graphic novel related in brief narrative boxes plus dialogue (some of it in both Spanish and English) in hundreds of b&w comic-book frames. Sarah has been told (falsely) that her mother died; Carlos can't understand why an old blind man is so interested in a subway token he's found. The two kids team up and eventually learn the truth: the evil Mr. Underton was blinded by Sarah's mother 11 years ago when he tried to steal the token that's the source of power for the metropolis (N.Y.C.), which will freeze if the token isn't delivered to safekeeping each December 21 by Sarah's mother (and, someday, by Sarah). With neat feats of derring-do but uncharacteristically lumpy plotting and motives (Stubbs hides from his wife for 11 years, fearing she'll hate him—to keep her love, he leaves her?), this isn't quite fish or fowl. Still, robust spirits run appealingly amok until the expected triumph of good. Author (and publisher) get high marks for experimenting with a new genre, though this may not be the book to make it fashionable. A bold venture that will probably entertain the young more than their elders. (Fiction. 10+) Read full book review >