WONDER WORLD KIDS

THE CASE OF THE LOST LLAMAS

A sometimes-thoughtful animal-oriented family romp through the Andes with a few sticking points.

In this second children’s book series installment, three siblings travel to Peru with their veterinarian parents, who’ve been hired to locate missing llamas.

Marx’s (Wonder World Kids: The Mystery of the Dancing Horses, 2019) latest book opens with the Cook children—10-year-old Lilly, 8-year-old Fynn, and his twin sister, Celia—complaining about taking plane rides and cross-country bus trips, due to their parents’ job as consulting veterinarians. However, as the family arrives at Machu Picchu, the kids become excited to learn about the archaeological site and the creatures that live nearby. The veterinarians must lure a photogenic herd of llamas back to the popular tourist destination; little do they realize that the problem may be the tourists themselves. There are apparently no Peruvian llama experts who are qualified to take the case, so the Cooks consult with an anthropologist named Mrs. Curador. Her son, Maximo, is an excellent runner who teaches track athlete Fynn about the legacy of Inca chasquis runners and offers insights about Inca engineering as the kids explore the site. Bolded vocabulary words abound, and quick facts about Machu Picchu and its fauna round out the narrative, which finishes with a glossary. It’s unfortunate that the Peruvian characters, including scholars, make no mention of Spanish colonization; the glossary also implies that Inca culture has disappeared, although Quechua is still spoken. The observant Chef Chuchu, who offers essential insight into how area tourism has expanded, introduces Lilly, Fynn, and Celia to the traditional use of cuy, or guinea pigs, as meat animals. This latter shock inspires a thoughtful dialogue about cultural conceptions of animals as pets or meat. However, it’s followed by a guinea pig rescue operation by the Cooks, which undermines the message of tolerance. Animal lovers and young adventurers will appreciate the short chapters, sibling banter, and easy-to-read blocks of text, as well as debut artist Gallo’s black-and-white pen-and-ink illustrations. The book’s conclusion will prompt readers to consider the impact of tourism on the environment. That said, its depiction of white Americans helping Peruvians understand their own national animal seems unrealistic, to put it lightly. 

A sometimes-thoughtful animal-oriented family romp through the Andes with a few sticking points.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73234-241-5

Page Count: 187

Publisher: Noreaster Times LLC

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2020

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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