A thrilling and very worthwhile choice for emergent readers.

I AM JAX, PROTECTOR OF THE RANCH

From the Dog's Day series

In the first of a new series about working dogs, Jax, a Great Pyrenees, describes his efforts to protect his flock of sheep through a long, scary night.

When the lead livestock guardian dog, Bev, is injured in a coyote attack, only Jax and a very youthful novice dog, Stormy, are left to protect their owner’s flock. After one of the ewes delivers a new lamb, things get even more complicated. Jax, brave and pragmatic, must try to keep a close eye on the defenseless pair while still making sure the flock is safe, never certain that he can rely on Stormy’s unproven judgment. Then a mountain lion begins to menace the sheep.…Jax’s matter-of-fact voice is both believable and highly informative, providing readers with a riveting step-by-step account of how livestock guardians are trained and how they do their work. Never lost in that enlightening presentation is the rising suspense generated by the large cat threatening the sheep—and the dogs. Rosa’s illustrations, a few for each short chapter, nicely enhance the text (and depict Jax’s human family as white). Considering that all of this is packaged in a slender volume intended for readers newly transitioned to chapter books, this is an outstanding effort, packed with interesting information but also too engrossing to put down. I Am Ava, Seeker in the Snow, about a chocolate Lab who does avalanche rescue, publishes simultaneously.

A thrilling and very worthwhile choice for emergent readers. (Adventure. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1663-8

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for...

DOG DAYS

From the Carver Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A gentle voice and familiar pitfalls characterize this tale of a boy navigating the risky road to responsibility. 

Gavin is new to his neighborhood and Carver Elementary. He likes his new friend, Richard, and has a typically contentious relationship with his older sister, Danielle. When Gavin’s desire to impress Richard sets off a disastrous chain of events, the boy struggles to evade responsibility for his actions. “After all, it isn’t his fault that Danielle’s snow globe got broken. Sure, he shouldn’t have been in her room—but then, she shouldn’t be keeping candy in her room to tempt him. Anybody would be tempted. Anybody!” opines Gavin once he learns the punishment for his crime. While Gavin has a charming Everyboy quality, and his aversion to Aunt Myrtle’s yapping little dog rings true, little about Gavin distinguishes him from other trouble-prone protagonists. He is, regrettably, forgettable. Coretta Scott King Honor winner English (Francie, 1999) is a teacher whose storytelling usually benefits from her day job. Unfortunately, the pizzazz of classroom chaos is largely absent from this series opener.

This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for subsequent volumes. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-97044-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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