From the Six Crowns series , Vol. 1

In a bizarre but good-natured genre mashup, two hedgehogs run around outer space fighting pirates and seeking talismans. Trundle is a lamplighter (and homebody) on a seemingly pre-industrial asteroid known for cabbage farms. Feisty stranger Esmeralda accosts the baffled Trundle and insists they go on a quest. Before he can refuse, pirates attack and the two hedgehogs flee. Running from the pirates, who are grizzled “pigs and rats and weasels and foxes,” Trundle and Esmeralda fall off the planet’s edge onto a windship—interplanetary transportation in this archipelago of asteroids requires wind vessels—and end up on a planet where enslaved animals labor in mines. They get into and out of various scrapes with derring-do and vigor; Trundle finds his enthusiasm along the way. They seek six legendary crowns that belonged to wise badgers in the past. The ramshackle science is vintage steampunk (outer space has air to breathe and breeze to power windships built like watercrafts; planetary gravity comes and goes). Jones has a nice knack for stringing words together at a bustling pace: “A sharp spitting spluttering crackling sound came to his ears.” Facile stereotypes about “Roamany” (Esmeralda’s exotic, wild, not-quite-moral culture) are a shame, but they are also in keeping with the steampunk feel. Readers who revel in collections and patterns will enjoy finding the crystal crown here and will look forward to the next five books that promise the next five crowns. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-200623-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after.


From the Dragon Masters series , Vol. 1

Drake has been selected by the king to serve as a Dragon Master, quite a change for an 8-year-old farmer boy.

The dragons are a secret, and the reason King Roland has them is a mystery, but what is clear is that the Dragon Stone has identified Drake as one of the rare few children who have a special connection with dragons and the ability to serve as a trainer. Drake’s dragon is a long brown creature with, at first, no particular talents that Drake can identify. He calls the dragon Worm. It isn’t long before Drake begins to realize he has a very strong connection with Worm and can share what seem to be his dragon’s thoughts. After one of the other Dragon Masters decides to illicitly take the dragons outside, disaster strikes. The cave they are passing through collapses, blocking the passageway, and then Worm’s special talent becomes evident. The first of a new series of early chapter books, this entry is sure to attract fans. Brief chapters, large print, lots of action, attractive illustrations in every spread, including a maplike panorama, an enviable protagonist—who wouldn’t want to be a Dragon Master?—all combine to make an entertaining read.

With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-64624-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale.


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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