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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A-mew-sing fare for readers who sometimes feel like fraidycats themselves.

SCAREDY CAT

Two shelter cats take on a mysterious puss with weird powers who is terrorizing the feline community.

Hardly have timorous (and aptly named) Poop and her sophisticated buddy, Pasha, been brought home by their new “human beans” for a two-week trial than they are accosted by fiery-eyed Scaredy Cat, utterly trashing the kitchen with a click of his claws and, hissing that he’s in charge of the neighborhood, threatening that if they don’t act like proper cats—disdaining ordinary cat food and any summons (they are not dogs, after all), clawing the furniture instead of the scratching post, and showing like “cattitude”—it’ll be back to the shelter for them. Will Poop and Pasha prove to be fraidycats or flee to the cowed clowder of homeless cats hiding from the bully in the nearby woods? Nope, they are made of sterner stuff and resolutely set out to enlist feline allies in a “quest for life, liberty, and the pursuit of purrs!” Cast into a gazillion very short chapters related by furry narrators Poop and Pasha, who are helpfully depicted in portrait vignettes by Herzog at each chapter’s head, the ensuing adventures test the defiant kitties’ courage (and, in some cases, attention spans) on the way to a spooky but poignant climax set, appropriately enough as it happens, in a pet graveyard.

A-mew-sing fare for readers who sometimes feel like fraidycats themselves. (Adventure. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49443-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A warm, real, and heartfelt tale.

WISH

Sent to stay with her aunt and uncle in Colby, North Carolina, an angry girl makes the same wish daily.

Charlie’s daddy’s in jail, her mama stays in bed all day, and her older sister’s living with a friend. Daily, the almost-11 white girl wishes for her broken family to heal. (The many ways she wishes form something of a catalog of folk and family traditions and are delightful all by themselves.) When the social worker sends her to live with Bertha and Gus, Charlie feels like “a loser that nobody wanted” and hates living with total strangers in a hillbilly town. Bertha and Gus, on the other hand, seem truly thrilled to have Charlie with them, even when she’s rude, sulking, or getting into trouble at school. Charlie doesn’t know what to make of affable, white Howard, the class geek, who walks with a limp and befriends her even though she ignores him. With Bertha and Gus, Charlie finds a stable, loving home. With Howard, Charlie finds a steadfast friend who helps her catch a stray dog she names Wishbone. After weeks living with Bertha and Gus, playing with Howard and Wishbone, and slowly fitting into Colby, Charlie learns Mama wants her to come home. But where is home? Speaking in an honest voice revealing her hurt, resentment, and vulnerability, Charlie explains how her wish comes true.

A warm, real, and heartfelt tale. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30273-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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