An intriguing children’s story about a tiny bird earning his wings.

Charlie Sparrow and the Secret of Flight

Laws against flying cannot quell a young bird’s desire to soar in Anderson’s debut children’s book.

None of the birds of Tree City know how to fly, so the only way they can reach their nests is by climbing a vast, spiral staircase. Charlie Sparrow’s father, a second-generation repairman, keeps those stairs in working order. One morning, young Charlie accompanies his father on a job and takes a tumble off a high branch. At that moment, something stirs within him, and he calmly spreads his wings floats to the ground. The experience leaves Charlie exhilarated and eager to try again, but his parents are horrified. They consult Dr. Nightingale, who diagnoses Charlie with “Leaping Syndrome,” described as “an extreme and dangerous urge to leap off things.” Just before Charlie is about to undergo the doctor’s treatment—a plucking procedure—he jumps out the window and again safely floats to the ground. Soon a mysterious bird in a long coat and fedora coaxes him into an old tree (which may raise parents’ eyebrows). He reveals himself to be Dr. Nightingale’s brother, but he holds an opposing view of Leaping Syndrome and encourages birds to follow their illicit muse. He introduces Charlie to a circle of other Leapers who engage in clandestine group therapy. Later, in the Leaping Cavern, Charlie’s unique floating ability puts him in the spotlight. Ultimately, Dr. Nightingale’s brother is put on trial, but the story ends on an uplifting note, with Charlie becoming the society’s designated flying instructor. Although children may applaud the group’s fortitude and Charlie’s perseverance, they may wonder why a society of birds doesn’t know how to fly, or why the birds have their wings regularly clipped. However, the story is nicely descriptive and its pace never falters. Anderson has also created fun, original and quirky characters, and children will likely enjoy their alliterative names, such as Wendy Warbler, Fanny Finch and Ronny Raven. The author’s accompanying pencil sketches are simplistic, but representational and expressive.

An intriguing children’s story about a tiny bird earning his wings.

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 62

Publisher: Underdog Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2013

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

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THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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