An homage to classic fantasies for an audience willing to suspend all disbelief and just go along for the ride.

READ REVIEW

THE ADVENTURES OF MISS PETITFOUR

Miss Petitfour is a quirky, creative, charming, magical cat lover.

The narrator speaks directly to readers in a schoolmarmish sort of voice, first introducing the heroine and each of her 16 cats. Each odd, whimsical adventure involves Miss Petitfour’s ability to use carefully selected tablecloths as a means of flying around her village, with her cats forming a kind of kite tail or ballast. There is nothing normal about this village or any of its inhabitants. There are handsome, giant-sized shop signs and delightfully named villagers who are perfectly accepting of Miss Petitfour’s aeronautic abilities. Michaels employs a rhythmic syntax that provides long descriptive lists of everything from the items in a jumble sale through the rare stamps in an album to silly book titles. The names of each of the 16 cats are repeated again and again. Woven through the tales are instructions on the techniques of storytelling. Examples of digressions and key phrases that move the story along, such as “fortunately” and “then one day,” are explained and demonstrated. A multitude of words that tickle the tongue—“gesticulating,” “propitious”—are defined within the stories. These words and phrases are flagged with italics or uppercase letters and printed in colored ink. Block’s charming, full-color illustrations complement the tales in a decidedly mid-20th-century modern style.

An homage to classic fantasies for an audience willing to suspend all disbelief and just go along for the ride. (Fantasy. 8-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-77049-500-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Tundra

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one.

THE WILD ROBOT ESCAPES

Roz, a robot who learned to adapt to life among wild creatures in her first outing, seeks to return to the island she calls home.

Brown’s sequel to The Wild Robot (2016) continues an intriguing premise: What would happen to a robot after challenges in an unexpected environment cause it to evolve in unusual ways? As this book opens, Roz is delivered to a farm where she helps a widower with two young children run a dairy operation that has been in his family for generations. Roz reveals her backstory to the cows, who are supportive of the robot’s determination to return to the island and to her adopted son, the goose Brightbill. The cows, the children, and finally Brightbill himself come to Roz’s aid. The focus on Roz’s escape from human control results in a somewhat solemn and episodic narrative, with an extended journey and chase after Roz leaves the farm. Dr. Molovo, a literal deus ex machina, appears near the end of the story to provide a means of rescue. She is Roz’s designer/creator, and, intrigued by the robot’s adaptation and evolution but cognizant of the threat that those achievements might represent to humans, she assists Roz and Brightbill in their quest. The satisfactory (if inevitable-feeling) conclusion may prompt discussion about individual agency and determination, whether for robots or people.

If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38204-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A waggish tale with a serious (and timely) theme.

KATT VS. DOGG

An age-old rivalry is reluctantly put aside when two young vacationers are lost in the wilderness.

Anthropomorphic—in body if definitely not behavior—Dogg Scout Oscar and pampered Molly Hissleton stray from their separate camps, meet by chance in a trackless magic forest, and almost immediately recognize that their only chance of survival, distasteful as the notion may be, lies in calling a truce. Patterson and Grabenstein really work the notion here that cooperation is better than prejudice founded on ignorance and habit, interspersing explicit exchanges on the topic while casting the squabbling pair with complementary abilities that come out as they face challenges ranging from finding food to escaping such predators as a mountain lion and a pack of vicious “weaselboars.” By the time they cross a wide river (on a raft steered by “Old Jim,” an otter whose homespun utterances are generally cribbed from Mark Twain—an uneasy reference) back to civilization, the two are BFFs. But can that friendship survive the return, with all the social and familial pressures to resume the old enmity? A climactic cage-match–style confrontation before a worked-up multispecies audience provides the answer. In the illustrations (not seen in finished form) López plops wide-eyed animal heads atop clothed, more or less human forms and adds dialogue balloons for punchlines.

A waggish tale with a serious (and timely) theme. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-41156-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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