FLAWED DOGS

THE SHOCKING RAID ON WESTMINSTER

Breathed’s fans won’t be surprised by the dark tone of this outlandish tale, but readers expecting a heartwarming pet story may be taken aback by the difficulties that face Sam, the canine hero. Luckily, smooth writing and humorous exaggeration make it relatively easy to get through the violence of a dog-fighting ring, the perfidy of an envious poodle and three long (mercifully undescribed) years in a research lab. Characterization of the humans is sketchy at best, but the various canine and feline players are an endearing mix of odd attributes and engaging personalities (except for the murderous poodle). Sam’s clever plot to infiltrate the Westminster dog show combines the suspense of an over-the-top caper film with the slapstick of the Marx Brothers (Mrs. Nutbush bears a striking resemblance to Margaret Dumont). Clearly growing out of, but not a simple expansion of, the 2003 picture book of the same name, these pups’ tale carries the same message of caring and concern and will likely worm its way into the hearts of readers able to persist through the problems and pain. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-399-25218-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2009

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HOW TO SPEAK DOLPHIN

Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals.

Is dolphin-assisted therapy so beneficial to patients that it’s worth keeping a wild dolphin captive?

Twelve-year-old Lily has lived with her emotionally distant oncologist stepfather and a succession of nannies since her mother died in a car accident two years ago. Nannies leave because of the difficulty of caring for Adam, Lily’s severely autistic 4-year-old half brother. The newest, Suzanne, seems promising, but Lily is tired of feeling like a planet orbiting the sun Adam. When she meets blind Zoe, who will attend the same private middle school as Lily in the fall, Lily’s happy to have a friend. However, Zoe’s take on the plight of the captive dolphin, Nori, used in Adam’s therapy opens Lily’s eyes. She knows she must use her influence over her stepfather, who is consulting on Nori’s treatment for cancer (caused by an oil spill), to free the animal. Lily’s got several fine lines to walk, as she works to hold onto her new friend, convince her stepfather of the rightness of releasing Nori, and do what’s best for Adam. In her newest exploration of animal-human relationships, Rorby’s lonely, mature heroine faces tough but realistic situations. Siblings of children on the spectrum will identify with Lily. If the tale flirts with sentimentality and some of the characters are strident in their views, the whole never feels maudlin or didactic.

Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-67605-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

RED-EYED TREE FROG

Bishop’s spectacular photographs of the tiny red-eyed tree frog defeat an incidental text from Cowley (Singing Down the Rain, 1997, etc.). The frog, only two inches long, is enormous in this title; it appears along with other nocturnal residents of the rain forests of Central America, including the iguana, ant, katydid, caterpillar, and moth. In a final section, Cowley explains how small the frog is and aspects of its life cycle. The main text, however, is an afterthought to dramatic events in the photos, e.g., “But the red-eyed tree frog has been asleep all day. It wakes up hungry. What will it eat? Here is an iguana. Frogs do not eat iguanas.” Accompanying an astonishing photograph of the tree frog leaping away from a boa snake are three lines (“The snake flicks its tongue. It tastes frog in the air. Look out, frog!”) that neither advance nor complement the action. The layout employs pale and deep green pages and typeface, and large jewel-like photographs in which green and red dominate. The combination of such visually sophisticated pages and simplistic captions make this a top-heavy, unsatisfying title. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-87175-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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