SAVING STELLA

A DOG'S DRAMATIC ESCAPE FROM WAR

An unusual refugee story that may open doors for empathy.

In this book, based on a real-life story, Bassel, a young Syrian man, becomes a refugee because of war and escapes his city for Europe, leaving his beloved dog, Stella, behind.

When gunfire wakes Bassel and Stella up at night, he tells her it is OK but knows that’s not true. Soon, living in his war-torn country is no longer safe, and, like millions of others, he must leave. Saying goodbye to family, friends, and Stella, he makes the arduous journey to Europe—on foot and by rubber dinghy, spending months confined in a refugee camp. A Belgian family opens their arms to him, and his host and friends from back home help him reunite with Stella. The dog’s journey will not be easy either, but the story ends on a happy and hopeful note. Both she and Bassel will have two lives now, one “lost” and a new one “found.” Expressive, softly stylized illustrations pay great attention to Bassel’s and Stella’s emotions throughout the book, and notes by the Syrian co-author and illustrator share details about their lives and the war. An afterword sheds more light on refugees around the world and includes a call to action to support them. It also provides further information about the Syrian conflict but unfortunately contains significant errors: saying that Turkey supports Assad and calling the Kurds (Syria’s largest ethnic minority) a rebel group; moreover it frames the conflict as one waged against Assad by rebel groups with different agendas and elides the role of civilian resistance to an authoritarian government. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 38.7% of actual size.)

An unusual refugee story that may open doors for empathy. (Picture book. 5-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0133-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

CLAYMATES

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

THE BAD GUYS

From the Bad Guys series , Vol. 1

We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face.

Four misunderstood villains endeavor to turn over a new leaf…or a new rap sheet in Blabey's frenzied romp.

As readers open the first page of this early chapter book, Mr. Wolf is right there to greet them, bemoaning his reputation. "Just because I've got BIG POINTY TEETH and RAZOR-SHARP CLAWS and I occasionally like to dress up like an OLD LADY, that doesn't mean… / … I'm a BAD GUY." To prove this very fact, Mr. Wolf enlists three equally slandered friends into the Good Guys Club: Mr. Snake (aka the Chicken Swallower), Mr. Piranha (aka the Butt Biter), and Mr. Shark (aka Jaws). After some convincing from Mr. Wolf, the foursome sets off determined to un-smirch their names (and reluctantly curbing their appetites). Although these predators find that not everyone is ready to be at the receiving end of their helpful efforts, they use all their Bad Guy know-how to manage a few hilarious good deeds. Blabey has hit the proverbial nail on the head, kissed it full on the mouth, and handed it a stick of Acme dynamite. With illustrations that startle in their manic comedy and deadpan direct address and with a narrative that follows four endearingly sardonic characters trying to push past (sometimes successfully) their fear-causing natures, this book instantly joins the classic ranks of Captain Underpants and The Stinky Cheese Man.

We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-91240-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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