A Christmas cozy, read straight or bit by bit through the season.

HOW WINSTON DELIVERED CHRISTMAS

Neither snow nor rain nor mountains of yummy cheese stay the carrier of a letter to Santa.

So carelessly does 8-year-old Oliver stuff his very late letter to Santa into the mailbox that it falls out behind his back—leaving Winston, a “small, grubby white mouse” with an outsized heart, determined to deliver it personally though he has no idea where to go. Smith presents Winston’s Christmas Eve trek in 24 minichapters, each assigned a December “day” and all closing with both twists or cliffhangers and instructions (mostly verbal, unfortunately) for one or more holiday-themed recipes or craft projects. Though he veers occasionally into preciosity (Winston “tried to ignore the grumbling, rumbling noises coming from his tummy”), he also infuses his holiday tale with worthy values. Occasional snowy scenes have an Edwardian look appropriate to the general tone, with a white default in place but a few dark-skinned figures in view. Less-crafty children will struggle with the scantly illustrated projects, which run from paper snowflakes to clothespin dolls and Christmas crackers with or without “snaps,” but lyrics to chestnuts like “The 12 Days of Christmas” (and “Jingle Bells,” which is not a Christmas song, but never mind) at the end invite everyone to sing along.

A Christmas cozy, read straight or bit by bit through the season. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68412-983-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Silver Dolphin

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale.

A WHALE OF THE WILD

After a tsunami devastates their habitat in the Salish Sea, a young orca and her brother embark on a remarkable adventure.

Vega’s matriarchal family expects her to become a hunter and wayfinder, with her younger brother, Deneb, protecting and supporting her. Invited to guide her family to their Gathering Place to hunt salmon, Vega’s underwater miscalculations endanger them all, and an embarrassed Vega questions whether she should be a wayfinder. When the baby sister she hoped would become her life companion is stillborn, a distraught Vega carries the baby away to a special resting place, shocking her grieving family. Dispatched to find his missing sister, Deneb locates Vega in the midst of a terrible tsunami. To escape the waters polluted by shattered boats, Vega leads Deneb into unfamiliar open sea. Alone and hungry, the young siblings encounter a spectacular giant whale and travel briefly with shark-hunting orcas. Trusting her instincts and gaining emotional strength from contemplating the vastness of the sky, Vega knows she must lead her brother home and help save her surviving family. In alternating first-person voices, Vega and Deneb tell their harrowing story, engaging young readers while educating them about the marine ecosystem. Realistic black-and-white illustrations enhance the maritime setting.

A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale. (maps, wildlife facts, tribes of the Salish Sea watershed, environmental and geographical information, how to help orcas, author’s note, artist’s note, resources) (Animal fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299592-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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