Another fine effort that wraps up some loose ends but also explores worthy new ground.

HARVEY HOLDS HIS OWN

Austin, Maggie, and West Highland white terrier Harvey are all back for a second outing following Harvey Comes Home (2019).

Can Nelson follow her excellent debut for middle-grade readers with another fine effort? Last time, Austin found the missing Harvey but, desperate for a dog of his own, held on to him longer than he should have, leaving rightful owner Maggie with ambivalent feelings toward the middle schooler. Those have not gone away. Needing to do community service, she chooses the retirement home where Austin volunteers, not expecting to find two fast friends there: Austin, who turns out to be a kindred spirit, and Mrs. Fradette, a feisty elder. She tells Maggie tales from her challenging youth, crafting another story within a story, as in Harvey Comes Home. Surprisingly, since this seems at first to merely re-create the earlier novel, a fresh tale emerges. Maggie’s struggling to find a place all her own with her two BFFs, who seem to be pushing her away, and Mrs. Fradette tells of striving to find her right place—becoming an auto mechanic—as a youth in 1950, not a common story but eminently believable. Characters, likely the white default, are lovingly developed, resulting in a deeply engaging coming-of-age story. Anderson’s soft, pencil illustrations set up each chapter.

Another fine effort that wraps up some loose ends but also explores worthy new ground. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77278-114-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Pajama Press

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A-mew-sing fare for readers who sometimes feel like fraidycats themselves.

SCAREDY CAT

Two shelter cats take on a mysterious puss with weird powers who is terrorizing the feline community.

Hardly have timorous (and aptly named) Poop and her sophisticated buddy, Pasha, been brought home by their new “human beans” for a two-week trial than they are accosted by fiery-eyed Scaredy Cat, utterly trashing the kitchen with a click of his claws and, hissing that he’s in charge of the neighborhood, threatening that if they don’t act like proper cats—disdaining ordinary cat food and any summons (they are not dogs, after all), clawing the furniture instead of the scratching post, and showing like “cattitude”—it’ll be back to the shelter for them. Will Poop and Pasha prove to be fraidycats or flee to the cowed clowder of homeless cats hiding from the bully in the nearby woods? Nope, they are made of sterner stuff and resolutely set out to enlist feline allies in a “quest for life, liberty, and the pursuit of purrs!” Cast into a gazillion very short chapters related by furry narrators Poop and Pasha, who are helpfully depicted in portrait vignettes by Herzog at each chapter’s head, the ensuing adventures test the defiant kitties’ courage (and, in some cases, attention spans) on the way to a spooky but poignant climax set, appropriately enough as it happens, in a pet graveyard.

A-mew-sing fare for readers who sometimes feel like fraidycats themselves. (Adventure. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49443-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world.

THEY THREW US AWAY

From the Teddies Saga series , Vol. 1

The journey to find a child becomes an existential quest for an abandoned teddy bear.

Buddy is not just any stuffed bear, but a blue Furrington Teddy with a Real Silk Heart. So why did he wake up in a landfill with other Furringtons of varying hues? A more pressing matter, however, is escaping Trashland and its murderous gulls and bulldozers. Yearning to connect with a child and achieve a state of peaceful Forever Sleep, Buddy and his new friends of differing temperaments and gifts set out on a harrowing journey through the city to find children who will want them. As they encounter other Furringtons in disarray, this opener in The Teddies Saga series becomes a mystery about why these teddies are being harmed in the first place. While the visceral narrative follows the teddy troupe’s adventurous challenges and survival, its focus is on Buddy’s inner struggles as he ponders identity, leadership, and other existential dilemmas. Kraus doesn’t shy away from anger, fear, death, and other dark subjects; instead they become opportunities for growth in difficult environments. Cai’s intense, slightly nightmarish grayscale illustrations add immeasurably to the text. Reminiscent of Watership Down in theme and structure, the novel’s intermittent teddy creation stories also become parables of a moral code and extend the epic story arc. A cliffhanger ending sets the scene for the next installment.

Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-22440-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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