Readers will suck up this quick and gooey adventure like the “fly-spit smoothie” that it is.



From the S.W.I.T.C.H. series , Vol. 2

The plot thickens with complications, plus various sorts of goo and slime, in the second episode of this boys-as-bugs series.

When their mother’s prized topiary is vandalized, 8-year-old twins Danny and Josh accept the offer of Petty Potts, the old-but-not-as-dotty-as-she-seems scientist next door, to transform them temporarily into houseflies in order to track down the perpetrator. Marveling at their suddenly different world (“I can see my own butt!” exclaims Danny. “Without turning my head around!”), the lads buzz off to the house of the suspected classmate culprit. There they have close and gross encounters with both a parental nose and a hungry spider—plus a reunion with friendly rats Scratch and Sniff, introduced in the first episode (Spider Stampede, 2013). In the end, just deserts are served out all around, and hints of a larger scheme involving Potts and her chemical cocktails point to sequels. Along with spritzing occasional drops of natural history into the story itself—“To a fly, pee is soup”—Sparkes appends a glossary of insect parts and other vocabulary words. For value added, all series episodes also feature a set list of print and Web resources for larval insectophiles. Sequels, publishing simultaneously, are Grasshopper Glitch, Ant Attack, Crane Fly Crash and Beetle Blast.

Readers will suck up this quick and gooey adventure like the “fly-spit smoothie” that it is. (line drawings) (Fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4677-0711-4

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Darby Creek

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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This high-wattage debut is a little rough around the edges, but there’s nary a dull moment.


A pair of sisters and a froggy sidekick go up against a horde of fungal jungle dwellers in this frantically paced Canadian import.

When Mom transforms Dad into a cat, 10-year-old Luey, her leggy green friend, Phil, and little sister Miri chase him through a closet door and down a jungle path into a maze of tunnels. They manage to rescue their errant parent from the maroon-colored, cat-worshiping goblins that had overrun the garden. (They are not the “mythological” sort, explains Wilson, but sentient mushrooms dressed in towels.) The three put most of their pursuers to flight by rubbing Dad’s fur the wrong way to turn him into a raving, furry maniac (the rest flee at the closet door, screaming “IT’S THE MOM CREATURE! RETREAT!!”). Captured in multiple, sometimes overly small panels of garishly colored cartoon art, the action—not to mention the internal logic—is sometimes hard to follow. Still, dragging along their timorous but canny buddy, the dark-skinned, big-haired sisters dash into danger with commendable vim, and readers will cheer when they come out triumphant on the other side.

This high-wattage debut is a little rough around the edges, but there’s nary a dull moment. (afterword) (Graphic fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-927668-11-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Koyama Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Young environmentalists will appreciate seeing how facts can defy frenzy.


From the Orca Echoes series

Through the investigations of young Cricket and her friends, readers learn how to distinguish evidence of a cougar from other animals—and are briefed on cougar conservation and monitoring.

When Cricket and her friend Shilo notice a foul smell coming from piled-up snow and branches under a bush, Cricket suspects that a cougar has hidden its dinner. Her father, Warden McKay, proves her right when he shows up at her school, giving an emergency presentation about cougars. A cougar has been seen in their village, which is located inside Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta. After Cricket’s dad informs kids about some cougar facts, Principal Singh gives students a rare week off from school. It’s odd, then, that the warden’s children proceed to wander the village. However, McDowell’s books about Cricket typically favor facts about wildlife above all else, and, also typically, this one does not disappoint. It even clarifies one statistic as specifically Canadian. Overall, the dialogue is more natural than in Salamander Rescue (2016), if equally packed with information. The nine chapters and epilogue are accessible, entertaining, and empowering for young naturalists. The compelling plot twist: Anxious villagers are accusing cougars of a series of large-mammal crimes. Cricket, knowing that cougar relocation can be fatal, wants to ensure continued, occasional village visits by a family of tracked cougars. She devises a scheme to trap the real culprit. Illustrations are pleasant enough, depicting a largely white cast, though at least three characters have Asian surnames.

Young environmentalists will appreciate seeing how facts can defy frenzy. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2064-7

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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