An unevenly written but fantastically illustrated children’s fantasy.


The Adventures With Andy & Susie


A cat and her boy explore life around their orchard home and get stuck in a terrific storm in this steampunkish debut adventure by veteran artist Hall.

When adventurous Andy returns home from school in the city, Susie the cat couldn’t be more delighted. The cat and boy journey around the orchard as they prepare for their weekend adventures together, visiting a horse barn and lake before heading home for dinner. The next day, Andy’s friend Katie arrives, racing with them in her steam-powered wheelchair. After returning home with her, Andy is excited to explore her father’s steam-power plant, but the colorful giant turbines there distract him from getting home on time. In this case, the delay is a treacherous one, as a storm is rolling in. Rather than go home on the road as he promised, Andy takes a shortcut through the woods. The blinding storm almost puts Andy and Susie in an unsafe situation—but Andy’s parents arrive just in time. Told in rhyming text from Susie’s perspective, the tale meanders through the characters’ lives rather than building the tension of the approaching storm, which resolves in two short pages. The rhyme scheme is also inconsistent in places; it’s typically AABBCC, but in places, it changes to ABAB, and the rhythm changes throughout. However, the joy here is in exploring Andy’s world, beautifully depicted in Hall’s full-scale paintings. From the first page, Susie will capture imaginations with the goggles she wears, and her relationship with Andy is sure to please young readers, especially animal lovers. Their world is populated with strange, wonderful contraptions: Andy’s school bus flies with tall-ship sails, Katie’s wheelchair spouts steam and her leg braces glow, and the local beekeeper wears a tin hat to prevent bee stings. Children will likely be intrigued by the crystal city in the final pages and wonder whether there’s more of Andy and Susie’s world to explore.

An unevenly written but fantastically illustrated children’s fantasy.

Pub Date: April 22, 2016


Page Count: -

Publisher: Noble Point, LLC

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2015

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


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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