Sibling evacuees find a seemingly abandoned baby on a Yorkshire dale.

At the start of World War II, Lizzie, 10, and her 7-year-old brother, Peter, are sent from Hull into the countryside to be fostered with a nearly catatonic woman named Elsie. When Lizzie brings home an infant she finds lying on a blanket in a field, Elsie springs to life, thinking that the baby is her dead child returned. In actuality, the baby is a Roma child reluctantly left behind by her elder brother, Elijah, when brutish Bill forces him to go rabbit hunting. Within hours, many, including the village policeman, know the identity of the baby—whose mother is frantically searching for her—but all independently decide that the baby should stay with the mentally ill woman. Only young Lizzie seems to have any morality. Adults thwart her until, teamed with Elijah, she pulls off a complicated rescue. Illogical plot points and inconsistent characterization doom this debut. Why would Bill endanger an infant? Why would Elijah agree? And if prejudice toward the Roma is the reason the villagers don't return the baby, why don't they realize the baby herself is one? Blackford writes smoothly in third-person chapters that shift between Lizzie (in which Elijah and his people are called Gypsies) and Elijah (in which they are called Travelers), and her historical details are well-done, but she needs to find a better story.

Skip. (Historical fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-57099-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015


Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015


From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 2

The second installment in this spirited series is a hit.

A new baby coming means Ryan has lots of opportunities to grow love.

Ryan has so much to look forward to this summer—she is going to be a big sister, and she finally gets to go to church camp! But new adventures bring challenges, too. Ryan feels like the baby is taking forever to arrive, and with Mom on bed rest, she isn’t able to participate in the family’s typical summer activities. Ryan’s Dad is still working the late shift, which means he gets home and goes to bed when she and her older brother, Ray, are waking up, so their quality daddy-daughter time is limited to one day a week. When the time for camp finally arrives, Ryan is so worried about bugs, ghosts, and sharing a cabin that she wonders if she should go at all. Watson’s heroine is smart and courageous, bringing her optimistic attitude to any challenge she faces. Hard topics like family finances and complex relationships with friends are discussed in an age-appropriate way. Watson continues to excel at crafting a sense of place; she transports readers to Portland, Oregon, with an attention to detail that can only come from someone who has loved that city. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and occasional illustrations by Mata spotlight their joy and make this book shine.

The second installment in this spirited series is a hit. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0058-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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