Those children who do connect with Dumon Tak’s sweet, quiet tale are likely to find it will resonate deeply.

READ REVIEW

MIKIS AND THE DONKEY

Inspired by a visit to a donkey sanctuary on the island of Corfu, this Dutch import offers a glimpse of a far-off land and a gentle lesson on caring for animals.

From his first meeting with his grandfather’s new donkey, Mikis feels a sense of connection. Fascinated, he spends as much time as possible with the animal, and when he’s given the opportunity to name her, he takes his time and even allows the donkey to have a vote of sorts. When not busy in school, the boy watches over Tsaki (as she is eventually called), urging his grandfather to treat her kindly, not to overburden her and to provide a comfortable stable. Slight subplots, more implied than fleshed-out, feature his teacher’s romance with a motorcycle-riding boyfriend and Mikis’ own affection for a classmate, Elena. Tsaki’s occasionally stubborn personality adds some mild humor, but for the most part, the text is low-key and straightforward. Hopman’s scratchy black-and-white illustrations provide context, showing a scrubby landscape, small houses crowded along the shore or the spreading tree in the center of town where the old men gather to talk. Characterization and action are downplayed in favor of mood and setting, making this a book that will need some work to connect with readers.

Those children who do connect with Dumon Tak’s sweet, quiet tale are likely to find it will resonate deeply. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5430-8

Page Count: 89

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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THE MYSTERIOUS WOODS OF WHISTLE ROOT

A strange, whimsical debut that may never quite convince readers why they should care about it.

Carly Bean Bitters is a likable 11-year-old with a strange malady: She is awake at night and sleeps during the day. This allows her to notice a strange phenomenon—a squash that appears on her roof. Carly soon meets Lewis, a musician and a rat, who explains that the squash is a member of his band, taking the place of a rat who has been abducted by owls. When Lewis introduces Carly to the other members of his rat community in the Whistle Root woods, she learns that the owls’ current behavior is abnormal—they used to dance to the rats’ moonlight tunes before they suddenly began snatching them. Thus begins a bizarre journey for Carly, who must discover the reason behind the owls’ sudden change of heart and other strange occurrences in the woods and her town. Though the back story behind the Whistle Root wood and various characters’ behavior is eventually explained, the explanations themselves are often disjointed and don’t quite add up. This feeling of arbitrariness makes it hard for readers to engage with the rats’ plight. While this quiet book achieves a timeless feel—being identifiably set neither in our world nor in another—this cannot atone for a history of the magical woods and creatures that sometimes feels nonsensical. (Fantasy. 8-10)

 

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-79263-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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A treat for proto–Percy Jackson fans.

THE QUEST FOR THE GOLDEN FLEAS

From the Zeus the Mighty series , Vol. 1

A center for rescued pets becomes the stage for adventures of literally mythical import in this series opener.

Convinced that they’re the gods after whom they’ve been named by the Mount Olympus Pet Center’s myth-loving owner (and Boyer drops hints that they’re not wrong), Zeus, a rescued hamster, and allies Demeter, Athena, and Ares—respectively a cricket, a tabby cat, and a scene-stealing pug of big stomach but little brain—get out at night to face such challenges as the deadly whirlpool of Charybdis (a stuck toilet). After listening (not very attentively) to a podcast version of “Jason and the Argonauts,” Zeus decides to settle a long-standing rivalry with a pufferfish named Poseidon by returning in triumph with the “Golden Fleas.” Little does he know that the quest will take him into Uncharted Territory (the empty store next door) where shrieking harpies (bats) lurk….While all of this doesn’t map very closely on the original yarn, it does offer opportunities aplenty for displays of courage, cleverness, and loyalty…as well as lots of comical byplay. Elkerton adds to both the comedy and the drama with vignettes and larger scenes of partly anthropomorphic animals in chitons and divine regalia, often looking dismayed or, in Ares’ case, ever on the lookout for Mutt Nuggets. A closing section includes further information on the source story and Greek myths in general.

A treat for proto–Percy Jackson fans. (map, floor plan) (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3547-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Under the Stars

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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