Cliffhangers and elephants will keep readers engaged.



Sam, nearly 14, has spent her life living and working with her father on a North American elephant sanctuary. Elephantine changes are brewing.

Sam knows how to drive a truck, toss bales of hay, and communicate effectively with elephants. Everything has been wonderful except for the sanctuary’s financial struggles, but now an anonymous sponsor has donated a huge sum of money to artificially inseminate three female elephants, and Daisy Mae is carrying a baby. Meanwhile, Sam is uncomfortable to the point of rudeness around impeccably dressed Joyce, her father’s lawyer and love interest. Each plotline has something in it to challenge readers. Animal lovers may wince at the Caesarian section that kills Daisy Mae; for feminists, some of the ways in which Sam and Joyce bond may elicit cringes. (Isn’t it enough that both of them care deeply about both Jack and the elephants?) Motherless Sam’s nurturing of the new elephant orphan adds poignancy. Fascinating elephant information is sometimes awkwardly inserted into dialogue but at other times is gracefully delivered by Sam’s direct address to readers. After a stunning revelation almost 200 pages into the book—which nudges the genre toward science fiction—the plot becomes more intriguing. Will the rich, eccentric James Mercury help or hinder Sam and Jack? What will be the fate of Burma, a newly arrived elephant with a history of dangerous behavior? Characters are default white except for one dark-skinned vet.

Cliffhangers and elephants will keep readers engaged. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-328-79617-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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A sure draw for the Kung-Fu Panda crowd, high on body count but low on gory details, it doesn't take itself too seriously...


From the Shark Wars series , Vol. 2

Toothy rivals introduced in the opener, Shark Wars (2011), unite in the sequel to battle an army of shark invaders from the far end of the Big Blue.

Having learned that he’s not fat (or “big-cartilaged,” as he prefers to put it) but a supersized prehistoric Megalodon, young Gray is propelled into playing a leading role in repelling a disciplined force of shark troops from Indi, led by King Finnivus, a spoiled and vicious brat with visions of world conquest. Fortunately, Gray is being tutored in martial “Shar-kata” by Takiza, an ancient and bad-tempered betta (Siamese fighting fish). He also finds common purpose with other “shivers” (the basic shark communal unit—though more open-minded shivers admit other species too) and discovers unexpected allies who arrive (thanks to Takiza’s ability to span entire oceans with magical speed) in the nick of time to turn the tide of the climactic battle. When Gray cries, or pants with exhaustion, the overall anthropomorphic conceit wears thin, but Altbacker expends some effort concocting his undersea setting and fills out the finny cast with familiar martial-arts–style character types.

A sure draw for the Kung-Fu Panda crowd, high on body count but low on gory details, it doesn't take itself too seriously and is fully sequel-enabled. (Animal fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59514-377-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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Bold deeds, betrayals, and buffoonery kick off this series with gusto.


From the Wild Ones series , Vol. 1

Treacherous urban pets try to renege on an ancient deal with the wild residents of a city alleyway, and a young raccoon finds himself caught in the middle in this all-animal dramedy.

His parents done in by a pack of hired bloodhounds, Kit flees his beloved woodlands for squalid Ankle Snap Alley, a wretched hive of scum and villainy, where he immediately falls afoul of a pair of raccoon hustlers and the feared Rabid Rascals gang. Worse yet, he is also targeted by miniature greyhound Titus, leader of the Flealess (or house pets), and vicious cat Sixclaw. They think he carries a possible clue to the whereabouts of the missing Bone of Contention that accords the alley’s formerly feral residents a right to settle there. Fortunately, Kit not only falls in with Eeni, a savvy rat who vows friendship “from howl to snap” (i.e., birth to, well…), but finds other allies too while proving himself no slouch when it comes to quick thinking and courage in the clutch. Despite metal traps springing and some spilled blood, the tale features but one onstage death; London further lightens the load with references to such appetizing alley cuisine as Daily Trash Casserole plus a diverse supporting cast highlighted by evangelical church mice and a retired fighting cock–turned-hairdresser.

Bold deeds, betrayals, and buffoonery kick off this series with gusto. (Animal fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-17099-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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