The whimsy is slight—the story is not—and both its interest and its vocabulary are for the youngest members of this age...

THE MOUSE AND THE MOTORCYCLE

Beverly Cleary has written all kinds of books (the most successful ones about the irrepressible Henry Huggins) but this is her first fantasy.

Actually it's plain clothes fantasy grounded in the everyday—except for the original conceit of a mouse who can talk and ride a motorcycle. A toy motorcycle, which belongs to Keith, a youngster, who comes to the hotel where Ralph lives with his family; Ralph and Keith become friends, Keith gives him a peanut butter sandwich, but finally Ralph loses the motorcycle—it goes out with the dirty linen. Both feel dreadfully; it was their favorite toy; but after Keith gets sick, and Ralph manages to find an aspirin for him in a nearby room, and the motorcycle is returned, it is left with Ralph....

The whimsy is slight—the story is not—and both its interest and its vocabulary are for the youngest members of this age group. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 1965

ISBN: 0380709244

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1965

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Funny delivery, but some jokes really miss the mark.

NARWHAL I'M AROUND

From the Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter series , Vol. 2

An animal ghost seeks closure after enduring aquatic atrocities.

In this sequel to The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter (2020), sixth grader Rex is determined to once again use his ability to communicate with dead animals for the greater good. A ghost narwhal’s visit gives Rex his next opportunity in the form of the clue “bad water.” Rex enlists Darvish—his Pakistani American human best friend—and Drumstick—his “faithful (dead) chicken”—to help crack the case. But the mystery is only one of Rex’s many roadblocks. For starters, Sami Mulpepper hugged him at a dance, and now she’s his “accidental girlfriend.” Even worse, Darvish develops one of what Rex calls “Game Preoccupation Disorders” over role-playing game Monsters & Mayhem that may well threaten the pair’s friendship. Will Rex become “a Sherlock without a Watson,” or can the two make amends in time to solve the mystery? This second outing effectively carries the “ghost-mist” torch from its predecessor without feeling too much like a formulaic carbon copy. Spouting terms like plausible deniability and in flagrante delicto, Rex makes for a hilariously bombastic (if unlikable) first-person narrator. The over-the-top style is contagious, and black-and-white illustrations throughout add cartoony punchlines to various scenes. Unfortunately, scenes in which humor comes at the expense of those with less status are downright cringeworthy, as when Rex, who reads as White, riffs on the impossibility of his ever pronouncing Darvish’s surname or he plays dumb by staring into space and drooling.

Funny delivery, but some jokes really miss the mark. (Paranormal mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5523-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Quirky and imaginative—postmodern storytelling at its best.

THE VERY, VERY FAR NORTH

Friendly curiosity and a gift for naming earn a polar bear an assortment of (mostly animal) friends, adventures, mishaps, and discoveries.

Arriving at a northern ocean, Duane spies a shipwreck. Swimming out to investigate, he meets its lone occupant, C.C., a learned snowy owl whose noble goal is acquiring knowledge to apply “toward the benefit of all.” Informing Duane that he’s a polar bear, she points out a nearby cave that might suit him—it even has a mattress. Adding furnishings from the wreck—the grandfather clock’s handless, but who needs to tell time when it’s always now?—he meets a self-involved musk ox, entranced by his own reflection, who’s delighted when Duane names him “Handsome.” As he comes to understand, then appreciate their considerable diversity, Duane brings out the best in his new friends. C.C., who has difficulty reading emotions and dislikes being touched, evokes the autism spectrum. Magic, a bouncy, impulsive arctic fox, manifests ADHD. Major Puff, whose proud puffin ancestry involves courageous retreats from danger, finds a perfect companion in Twitch, a risk-aware, common-sensical hare. As illustrated, Sun Girl, a human child, appears vaguely Native, and Squint, a painter, white, but they’re sui generis: The Canadian author avoids referencing human culture. The art conveys warmth in an icy setting; animal characters suggest beloved stuffed toys, gently reinforcing the message that friendship founded on tolerance breeds comfort and safety.

Quirky and imaginative—postmodern storytelling at its best. (Animal fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3341-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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