Warm, smart and educational.

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THE MONSTERJUNKIES

AN AMERICAN FAMILY ODYSSEY

From Shein (Gods and Angels, 2013) and Gates comes the YA tale of a family for whom cryptozoology is a way of life.

Ninth-grader Cromwell “Crow” Monsterjunkie lives with his family near Foggy Point, Maine. His parents, Talon and Pandora, use their mansion as a sanctuary for rare and endangered creatures, including Beau the sasquatch, Chico the chupacabra and Periwinkle the pterodactyl. Quiet Crow doesn’t make friends easily—unlike his older sister, Indigo—partly because of the burden of secrecy that comes with being a Monsterjunkie; if the public knew about their rare creatures, chaos might descend on the family. And yet, since adolescence comes with enough inner turmoil, Talon and Pandora allow their children to begin inviting small groups of trusted friends to tour their elaborate property, which has a laboratory, Varmint Hollow and the Weird Willow tree. Life grows tense, however, when a group of bullying classmates, led by the viciously entitled Ruth Grimes, start targeting Crow, Indigo and their new friends. Worse, in an attempt to make the town safer for real Americans, Ruth’s wealthy father decides to stir up trouble for the animal-loving Monsterjunkies. In dealing with the bullies, Crow must choose to either sink to their level or rise above it, his family’s secrets at stake. Herpetologist Shein and co-author Gates wrap a classic tale of conformity in some gorgeously gothic paper. Sprinkled throughout are great tidbits of cryptozoology: “The gorilla and the giant squid were both thought to be myths, yet in fact, are quite real.” Lighthearted humor is the primary tone elsewhere; Beau the eloquent sasquatch, for example, says he was “frankly, well, a little embarrassed” to be naked while scaring some trespassers. Later, the authors hope to rally the parents of actual bullied children—whether it involves common nastiness or homophobia—with the advice that “all it takes is a heroic kid to step in...to disrupt the situation.” Facebook bullying, unfortunately, proves tougher to handle. Though the ending feels abrupt, a second book awaits fans craving another fix of Crow and company.

Warm, smart and educational.

Pub Date: March 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0615990156

Page Count: 188

Publisher: Ark Watch Holdings LLC

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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