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

WONDER WORLD KIDS

THE CASE OF THE LOST LLAMAS

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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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