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FORCE OF NATURE

A NOVEL OF RACHEL CARSON

A convincing and charming portrayal of a woman who made a difference.

A free-verse, first-person fictional account told from the point of view of Rachel Carson that relates her remarkable life.

From childhood, Carson was encouraged by her mother to appreciate but not meddle with the natural world. Life was never easy in the Carson household, but the future biologist found a way to combine science with her love of writing. Over time, she would encourage millions of readers to admire and protect our world through several influential and acclaimed books, including her best-known work, Silent Spring (1962), published two years before her death. Burg’s narrative follows the events of Carson’s life closely, but her relationships with her family members receive the most attention. They, as well as Dorothy, the intimate friend and kindred spirit she finally found, share her love for the natural world. (That there may have been more to the women’s relationship than friendship is not explored.) Gracefully written in short, rhythmic lines, the text is pleasing to the eye and ear. Many pages of this beautifully presented celebration are enhanced by Blackall’s tiny, hand-labeled, grayscale drawings of butterflies, birds, pond-water creatures, and more, reminding readers of Carson’s own sense of wonder. In an appended author’s note, Burg notes her sympathy with her subject and explains her choice to tell her story as fiction, so that she could “capture Rachel’s indomitable spirit.” Her sources are outlined in the acknowledgments.

A convincing and charming portrayal of a woman who made a difference. (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 5, 2024

ISBN: 9781338883381

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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ODDER

Rich, naturalistic details will delight lovers of marine life.

A Monterey Bay sea otter comes of age.

Odder’s mom told her to stay away from sharks, humans, and anything else she didn’t understand, but after saving her friend Kairi from a shark attack, she encounters all three. Injured herself during the rescue, Odder ends up recuperating at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, or Highwater as the otters call it, where she once lived as a young orphaned pup. Last time, the humans helped her reintegrate into the wild, but because of her injuries this time the outcome might be different. Soon Kairi is there too, stricken with “the shaking sickness” and having lost her newborn pup. Now Kairi is fostering a new pup, and soon one is introduced to an initially reluctant Odder in hopes that she will help raise it so it can return to the wild. The free verse effortlessly weaves in scientific information, giving Odder a voice without overly anthropomorphizing any of the animals. The natural appeal of sea otters will draw readers in, but the book doesn’t shy away from real-world threats such as predators, disease, and pollution. Loosely based on the stories of real sea otters rehabilitated at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, this novel will give readers lots to talk about, but uneven pacing and a rushed ending may leave some unsatisfied. Charming black-and-white spot art captures the world and life of the sea.

Rich, naturalistic details will delight lovers of marine life. (glossary, author’s note, bibliography, resources) (Verse novel. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-14742-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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