THE WORM WHISPERER

Animal-obsessed Ellis Coffey hopes his pet woolly caterpillar will win the race at the Banner Elk Woolly Worm Festival and its $1,000 purse so he can pay the deductible for his father’s back surgery.

Money is tight in Ellis' family, and the fourth-grader has more than the usual worries and responsibilities. He helps out a lot at home, but he still has time to explore the woods behind the family's blueberry farm in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains. That’s where he finds the caterpillar he names Tink. Feeding her, dealing with her excrement (which, he learns, is called frass) and keeping her safe are some of the challenges he faces in this unusual pet story. Readers can’t help but admire this boy who is trying so hard to be helpful. At school, his teacher describes him as “class-clown-but-with-brains” and encourages his interest in new words. There is humor in Ellis’ efforts to keep Tink hidden on an outing to church and plenty of suspense right up to the race itself. And then there’s the question: Can Ellis really talk to animals like Mrs. Puckett, the horse whisperer? A satisfying ending neatly wraps up this warm story, and Hatke’s occasional line drawings will add appeal for middle-grade readers. (Fiction. 9-12)

 

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59643-490-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world.

THEY THREW US AWAY

From the Teddies Saga series , Vol. 1

The journey to find a child becomes an existential quest for an abandoned teddy bear.

Buddy is not just any stuffed bear, but a blue Furrington Teddy with a Real Silk Heart. So why did he wake up in a landfill with other Furringtons of varying hues? A more pressing matter, however, is escaping Trashland and its murderous gulls and bulldozers. Yearning to connect with a child and achieve a state of peaceful Forever Sleep, Buddy and his new friends of differing temperaments and gifts set out on a harrowing journey through the city to find children who will want them. As they encounter other Furringtons in disarray, this opener in The Teddies Saga series becomes a mystery about why these teddies are being harmed in the first place. While the visceral narrative follows the teddy troupe’s adventurous challenges and survival, its focus is on Buddy’s inner struggles as he ponders identity, leadership, and other existential dilemmas. Kraus doesn’t shy away from anger, fear, death, and other dark subjects; instead they become opportunities for growth in difficult environments. Cai’s intense, slightly nightmarish grayscale illustrations add immeasurably to the text. Reminiscent of Watership Down in theme and structure, the novel’s intermittent teddy creation stories also become parables of a moral code and extend the epic story arc. A cliffhanger ending sets the scene for the next installment.

Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-22440-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Perfect for eager readers of animal adventures.

CREATURES OF THE FLOOD

From the Bamboo Kingdom series , Vol. 1

The first in a new series by the pseudonymous authorial collaboration, this one focusing on pandas.

In the midst of a devastating flood, a giant panda reaches the security of a cave where she can safely birth her cubs. In an initially confusing timeline, the tale then takes up much later with Leaf, who is maturing among a group of pandas in a barren countryside. On the other side of an uncrossable river, Rain, another intrepid panda, is growing up in the Southern Forest, where more previously solitary pandas have gathered. When Sunset Deepwood, the prophesying Dragon Speaker, returns—seemingly from the dead—Rain is immediately suspicious of his behavior, especially concerning his secret meetings with antagonistic monkeys. The storyline switches between these two females and Ghost, a clumsy all-white male who has grown up with his presumed littermates under the tender care of their snow leopard mother, Winter. Although he knows he differs from the other cubs in significant ways, Ghost has no idea he’s actually a panda. After a large earthquake, Leaf comes under the care of Shadowhunter, a tiger who’s sworn to reunite triplet pandas who are destined together to become the next Dragon Speakers, setting up another entry in the series. The animals are well depicted, with clear personalities, and the challenges they face are daunting, nicely sustaining the suspense. Illustrations not seen.

Perfect for eager readers of animal adventures. (map) (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-302192-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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