A fun adventure for animal-loving young readers.

READ REVIEW

THE HOPPERNOTS

Three young, plucky frogs help save the day in Dempsey’s debut for middle-grade readers.

Life is tranquil at Lake Fibian for the Anura, the frog nation, who gather monthly on Luna Light Night “to celebrate the unity of the lake.” Three young frog friends, known for their troublemaking as “The Three,” enjoy many adventures around the lake. Max is the most daring of The Three, while Spyder is more cautious (and a voracious eater), and Cristobel excels at figuring things out. Life hasn’t always been so idyllic, though. According to the “Croaklore,” the lake was once invaded by a creature called a Hoppernot, which walked on two legs, spoke an incomprehensible language, and snatched fish out of the lake without warning. After the Hoppernot departed, all the species made a pact to cooperate. Now the Hoppernots have returned, threatening the peace. The Three discover that the Hoppernots are destroying the animals’ summer resort, a long-abandoned house. Cristobel also finds that she can understand their language. Using this knowledge, The Three mobilize the animals to use their strengths to scare the Hoppernots away. The story is told from a frog’s-eye view, presenting common items such as cars and baseball caps from a frog’s perspective. Even the language has been modified as frog-speak: “They’re too afraid of getting tadnapped and taken away.” Animal lovers will enjoy fun facts neatly incorporated into the plot; for example, a flock of crows is called a murder. In the beginning, the history of the animals’ pact almost overwhelms with detail, and it takes a while for the action to get going. Once it does, though, the story moves at a quick pace, with only a couple of delays for out-of-place flashbacks. Some minor punctuation and grammatical errors, as well as incorrect word choices (“after so much time had past”), may be especially confusing for an audience new to reading. However, well-developed characters, an exciting climax, and a strong theme of working together make this an appealing story.

A fun adventure for animal-loving young readers.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-0990481201

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Pug Paw Press

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How to Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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ZATHURA

A trite, knock-off sequel to Jumanji (1981). The “Jumanji” box distracts Walter Budwing away from beating up on his little brother Danny, but it’s Danny who discovers the Zathura board inside—and in no time, Earth is far behind, a meteor has smashed through the roof, and a reptilian Zyborg pirate is crawling through the hole. Each throw of the dice brings an ominous new development, portrayed in grainy, penciled freeze frames featuring sculptured-looking figures in constricted, almost claustrophobic settings. The angles of view are, as always, wonderfully dramatic, but not only is much of the finer detail that contributed to Jumanji’s astonishing realism missing, the spectacular damage being done to the Budwings’ house as the game progresses is, by and large, only glimpsed around the picture edges. Naturally, having had his bacon repeatedly saved by his younger sibling’s quick thinking, once Walter falls through a black hole to a time preceding the game’s start, his attitude toward Danny undergoes a sudden, radical transformation. Van Allsburg’s imagination usually soars right along with his accomplished art—but here, both are just running in place. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-25396-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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