A pleasing fantasy, especially for tween girls who love horses.


The Last Chore

In this novella for middle-grade readers, a girl and her horse are threatened by wildfire.

Olivia, called Livy, has spent the summer working on the Bar S Ranch in Montana, which caters to city tourists. Already an experienced hand, Livy, about 11, has worked hard and often independently for Bar S: she “guided groups to campsites, resupplied camps, herded strays, searched for lost hikers, and occasionally helped with the shoeing and in the cookhouse.” She likes the Atkinsons, the ranch owners whom most call Ma and Pa, and Don, a Sioux who started off as the Atkinsons’ stock hand and is now a trusted family confidant. All three are kind and nurturing, despite worrying over the ranch’s financial troubles. Pa calls Livy in for a last chore before she returns home: a two-day ride out to the base camp to retrieve a radio for repair. Livy will need to take a backwoods route because of wildfire in the area—but she’s warned to stay off federal land and the old suspension bridge. A long solo ride over rugged ground sounds like the perfect end to her summer, and Livy agrees eagerly. She and Itchy, her favorite mount, get a good start on the trail, but the wildfire changes direction—and the only way forward for Itchy and Livy is across the suspension bridge. Can Livy save the day, herself, Itchy, and the ranch? Dahl (Olivia’s Story: Protector of the Realm, 2016, etc.) writes a story of resourcefulness, intelligence, courage, and luck that has great appeal, especially for girls who’d like to see themselves as rescuers, not the rescued. The plot moves swiftly with some exciting scenes of danger and escape. The book has faults: at 68 pages, it’s skimpy and can be vague on details (like Livy’s last name, age, or home city); and some elements, such as adults eager to share wealth with Livy, perhaps betray the book’s origins in tales told to please a granddaughter. And Don is a bit of a Native American stereotype.

A pleasing fantasy, especially for tween girls who love horses.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-312-79967-7

Page Count: 68

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs.


Rejoice! 25 years later, Wayside School is still in session, and the children in Mrs. Jewls’ 30th-floor classroom haven’t changed a bit.

The surreal yet oddly educational nature of their misadventures hasn’t either. There are out-and-out rib ticklers, such as a spelling lesson featuring made-up words and a determined class effort to collect 1 million nail clippings. Additionally, mean queen Kathy steps through a mirror that turns her weirdly nice and she discovers that she likes it, a four-way friendship survives a dumpster dive after lost homework, and Mrs. Jewls makes sure that a long-threatened “Ultimate Test” allows every student to show off a special talent. Episodic though the 30 new chapters are, there are continuing elements that bind them—even to previous outings, such as the note to an elusive teacher Calvin has been carrying since Sideways Stories From Wayside School (1978) and finally delivers. Add to that plenty of deadpan dialogue (“Arithmetic makes my brain numb,” complains Dameon. “That’s why they’re called ‘numb-ers,’ ” explains D.J.) and a wild storm from the titular cloud that shuffles the school’s contents “like a deck of cards,” and Sachar once again dishes up a confection as scrambled and delicious as lunch lady Miss Mush’s improvised “Rainbow Stew.” Diversity is primarily conveyed in the illustrations.

Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296538-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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