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MAGGIE AND THE FLYING HORSE

From the Magic Animal Rescue series , Vol. 1

A strong series opener for sensitive readers.

A lonely, misunderstood girl who pays enough attention to notice magical creatures must help a tiny, winged horse.

While Maggie’s father chops wood across the forest, she’s left with her wicked stepmother, Zelia, and stepsiblings, including awful Peter. Her steps, new to the Enchanted Forest, don’t believe Maggie when she tells them about the magical creatures and accuse her of lying to cover up laziness. Zelia threatens to give Maggie’s bed to Peter unless Maggie stops with the stories and sticks to chores, then sends Maggie to help Peter tend his sheep. But Maggie falls asleep on the job, and Peter ditches her, leaving her to awaken to goblins! When a tiny flying horse tickles her while she’s hiding, Maggie brushes it away—but accidentally damages its delicate wing. Maggie takes it to Bob the Stableman, a person her grandmother had told her helped magical creatures, but only after cleverly evading a dangerous troll. Bob’s a kindred soul and supportive adult—a good thing since Maggie’s decision to do right by the horse instead of doing chores gives Zelia an excuse to make good on threats. Kids will relate to the injustice and to not feeling heard. The simultaneously publishing sequel, Maggie and the Wish Fish, continues the familial storyline through an encounter with an allegedly wish-granting fish rather than resetting to status quo. All illustrated human characters appear to be white.

A strong series opener for sensitive readers. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68119-312-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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CODY HARMON, KING OF PETS

From the Franklin School Friends series

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading.

When Franklin School principal Mr. Boone announces a pet-show fundraiser, white third-grader Cody—whose lack of skill and interest in academics is matched by keen enthusiasm for and knowledge of animals—discovers his time to shine.

As with other books in this series, the children and adults are believable and well-rounded. Even the dialogue is natural—no small feat for a text easily accessible to intermediate readers. Character growth occurs, organically and believably. Students occasionally, humorously, show annoyance with teachers: “He made mad squinty eyes at Mrs. Molina, which fortunately she didn’t see.” Readers will be kept entertained by Cody’s various problems and the eventual solutions. His problems include needing to raise $10 to enter one of his nine pets in the show (he really wants to enter all of them), his troublesome dog Angus—“a dog who ate homework—actually, who ate everything and then threw up afterward”—struggles with homework, and grappling with his best friend’s apparently uncaring behavior toward a squirrel. Serious values and issues are explored with a light touch. The cheery pencil illustrations show the school’s racially diverse population as well as the memorable image of Mr. Boone wearing an elephant costume. A minor oddity: why does a child so immersed in animal facts call his male chicken a rooster but his female chickens chickens?

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30223-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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A WHALE OF THE WILD

A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale.

After a tsunami devastates their habitat in the Salish Sea, a young orca and her brother embark on a remarkable adventure.

Vega’s matriarchal family expects her to become a hunter and wayfinder, with her younger brother, Deneb, protecting and supporting her. Invited to guide her family to their Gathering Place to hunt salmon, Vega’s underwater miscalculations endanger them all, and an embarrassed Vega questions whether she should be a wayfinder. When the baby sister she hoped would become her life companion is stillborn, a distraught Vega carries the baby away to a special resting place, shocking her grieving family. Dispatched to find his missing sister, Deneb locates Vega in the midst of a terrible tsunami. To escape the waters polluted by shattered boats, Vega leads Deneb into unfamiliar open sea. Alone and hungry, the young siblings encounter a spectacular giant whale and travel briefly with shark-hunting orcas. Trusting her instincts and gaining emotional strength from contemplating the vastness of the sky, Vega knows she must lead her brother home and help save her surviving family. In alternating first-person voices, Vega and Deneb tell their harrowing story, engaging young readers while educating them about the marine ecosystem. Realistic black-and-white illustrations enhance the maritime setting.

A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale. (maps, wildlife facts, tribes of the Salish Sea watershed, environmental and geographical information, how to help orcas, author’s note, artist’s note, resources) (Animal fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299592-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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