Much more than a lost-dog story.

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HARVEY COMES HOME

Harvey, a curious little white West Highland terrier, roams away when his dogsitter forgets to latch the gate.

Although his getting lost is frightening and heartbreaking for both Harvey and Maggie, his bereft young owner, it’s providential for Mr. Walter Pickering, a very elderly resident of a continuing-care facility, and for Austin, who volunteers there—kind of. His service is actually payback his grandfather is exacting for a big mistake involving firecrackers that the lonely 11-year-old made in school. Pickering has always been gruff and reclusive. But after friendly Harvey turns up at the facility (and remains there because Austin, desperately wanting the dog, fails to look for his owner), the man begins to tell Austin—and Harvey—his vividly realized, sometimes brutal tales of growing up on the Saskatchewan prairie during the Dust Bowl. In these short episodes, readers learn how young Pickering befriended impoverished Bertie, who was abused, then abandoned by her drunken father but, being a young girl of rare spirit and determination, survived. Accompanied by his own beloved dog, Pickering and Bertie navigated the immense challenges of the era, their woeful experiences almost subsuming the primary plot in which Austin and Maggie both persevere in their own difficult situations. Affecting, riveting, and evocative, this character-driven tale within a tale, with narrative perspective alternating among Harvey, Austin, and Maggie, believably reveals the best and sometimes the worst of human nature. The cast defaults to white.

Much more than a lost-dog story. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77278-097-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Pajama Press

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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THE TIGER RISING

Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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