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Use your milkweed: Read this!

A wild rabbit narrates a tale of friendship, bravery—and storytelling.

Young Butternut and her siblings receive an in-depth education from their mother, who in turn learned from Butternut’s grandmother Sage, a wise, experienced rabbit who’s determined to keep her family safe. Humor shines through as Butternut describes lessons in survival, storytelling, and grooming. Grandmother tells the younger rabbits that just as monarch butterflies have the advantage of eating milkweed (which makes them toxic and keeps them safe from predators), “Our milkweed is our brain power.” Despite her family’s misgivings, Butternut—known for her “brambles” (or anxiety) and storytelling prowess—befriends Piper, a baby robin who enjoys using alliteration. The duo soon start venturing out at night to help an injured fawn, and more adventures ensue as Butternut slowly learns that there are some things in life worth taking risks for. By the time of the titular rescue, a host of secondary characters have been introduced, including a bullying blue jay and a “little female human.” Cleverly, the text uses Butternut’s voice to point out literary devices and techniques as she tells her tale. Witty, engaging, and heartfelt, this novel compares favorably with Cynthia Voigt’s gray squirrel odyssey, Toaff’s Way (2018), expertly entwining actual, observed facts about wildlife with whimsical anthropomorphism. The charming illustrations complement the text and show the girl to be light-skinned.

Use your milkweed: Read this! (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 16, 2023

ISBN: 9781623543334

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

Dizzyingly silly.

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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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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