THE MOUSE OF AMHERST

A mouse becomes the perfect poetic companion to the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson in this heartfelt daydream from Spires (With One White Wing, 1995, etc.). When the small mouse Emmaline moves into the Dickinson household, she accidentally reads some scraps of verse penned by Emily. Reading poems inspires the rodent to write her own lines on the back of Emily’s paper, and to leave it for the poet to find. Thus the two become “pen pals,” writing verse and sharing it with each other, though rarely face to face. Readers gain a fanciful mouse’s-eye view of Emily’s life at home, where she is visited by an editor, and where she delivers homemade gingerbread to the neighborhood children by lowering a basket to them on a rope. Emmaline’s life is not as quiet as her human mentor’s; she’s chased by a cat, rooted out by a ferret, and eventually decides she must move on. Years later, Emmaline passes on her appreciation of poetry to her mice children, and continues to write. This diminutive little book, with its shy black-and-white line drawings and amusing plot, is an ideal introduction to Dickinson’s poetry. It’s also a strong advocate for the power of the written word, even in the absence of fame or speech, to communicate, to inspire friendships, and to stir the heart. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 26, 1999

ISBN: 0-374-35083-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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KENNY & THE DRAGON

Reports of children requesting rewrites of The Reluctant Dragon are rare at best, but this new version may be pleasing to young or adult readers less attuned to the pleasures of literary period pieces. Along with modernizing the language—“Hmf! This Beowulf fellow had a severe anger management problem”—DiTerlizzi dials down the original’s violence. The red-blooded Boy is transformed into a pacifistic bunny named Kenny, St. George is just George the badger, a retired knight who owns a bookstore, and there is no actual spearing (or, for that matter, references to the annoyed knight’s “Oriental language”) in the climactic show-fight with the friendly, crème-brulée-loving dragon Grahame. In look and spirit, the author’s finely detailed drawings of animals in human dress are more in the style of Lynn Munsinger than, for instance, Ernest Shepard or Michael Hague. They do, however, nicely reflect the bright, informal tone of the text. A readable, if denatured, rendition of a faded classic. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4169-3977-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2008

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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