A fast-paced, if lengthy, look at an ecological system under siege.

Nature is indeed red in tooth and claw in this middle-grade novel.

The Wakefield dump is home to a complicated, interwoven community of animals. The story is told through the key members of this community, including a timid owl, a conniving weasel, a mole who just wants something interesting to happen, a pair of fireflies, a recently deposed porcupine king and his porcupine henchmen, a chipmunk, a turkey, and a slew of other creatures from all walks (and crawls) of life. One would think that living under a dump, where shelter and food are somewhat plentiful, would result in a sort of perfect ecological harmony, but it’s not to be; instead, each creature faces his or her own battles, some with the outside world, and some with one another. But as the stakes get higher and oppressive forces begins to darken the dump and surrounding forest, the animals must begrudgingly work together to do battle and save themselves. Will they get it done, or will there be one prickly creature to rule them all? Sharpe clearly has affection for her wild subjects in her debut work—each has a distinct personality, culminating in a sort of Game of Thrones-esque buildup and battle of clans. The tale starts off slowly, but once it gets moving, it really moves. There may be a few too many characters, though, and some of them blend together. Some of the prose during the dialogue is a bit over the top, as when Margaret the weasel cackles to herself: “ ‘Raid the young from my den?’ Margaret blinked back the memory, before emotion could take hold of her in its talons. ‘No, my fine feathered demons. Not this time.’ ” That being said, fauna-minded young readers will dig through the story as avidly as the band of animals as they fix a tunnel. The book shows that working together may be hard, but it does have its benefits.

A fast-paced, if lengthy, look at an ecological system under siege.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-945756-06-1

Page Count: -

Publisher: Merrimack Media

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2017



A pleasant holiday spent with a perfectly charming character.

One of Boynton's signature characters celebrates Halloween.

It's Halloween time, and Pookie the pig is delighted. Mom helps the little porker pick out the perfect Halloween costume, a process that spans the entire board book. Using an abcb rhyme scheme, Boynton dresses Pookie in a series of cheerful costumes, including a dragon, a bunny, and even a caped superhero. Pookie eventually settles on the holiday classic, a ghost, by way of a bedsheet. Boynton sprinkles in amusing asides to her stanzas as Pookie offers costume commentary ("It's itchy"; "It's hot"; "I feel silly"). Little readers will enjoy the notion of transforming themselves with their own Halloween costumes while reading this book, and a few parents may get some ideas as well. Boynton's clean, sharp illustrations are as good as ever. This is Pookie's first holiday title, but readers will surely welcome more.

A pleasant holiday spent with a perfectly charming character. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-553-51233-5

Page Count: 18

Publisher: Robin Corey/Random

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016



Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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