Unvarnished infotainment, cross-purposed and more suitable for casual browsing than focused research.

FRIEND OR FOE

THE WHOLE TRUTH ABOUT ANIMALS PEOPLE LOVE TO HATE

An album of scary, dangerous, or revolting creatures—all of which have better sides.

For 10 animals, from rats and roaches to sharks and wolves, Kaner presents in turn a selection of destructive or disgusting habits, then beneficial behaviors. Though negatives tend to be more vivid than countering claims, readers who swoon over gross bits will find plenty of passages like “How does a vulture cool off on hot days? It poops on its legs,” and “It takes much less feed, land, and water to raise a pound of cockroach meat than it does to raise a pound of beef.” Her titles are thrilling too: “Leeches Suck.” “AAH! SHARKS!” “Vultures Deserve Better Press.” Along with being sometimes unconvincing (“Marvelous Mosquitoes”), most of her observations are generalized or, like a suggestion that a certain mosquito-eating spider might be the “solution” for malaria, facile. Moreover, her invitation to make a “friend or foe?” choice for each animal sets up a series of false dichotomies that she then confusingly (if rightly) dismisses abruptly with a concluding explanation that “Animals Are Just Doing Their Thing.” Anderson adds a comical tone to the enterprise with cartoon illustrations of beasties bearing human expressions and uttering such quips as “Howl’s it going?” or “I’m glad pie-thon isn’t on the menu!”

Unvarnished infotainment, cross-purposed and more suitable for casual browsing than focused research. (bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-77147-064-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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THE MYSTERIOUS WOODS OF WHISTLE ROOT

A strange, whimsical debut that may never quite convince readers why they should care about it.

Carly Bean Bitters is a likable 11-year-old with a strange malady: She is awake at night and sleeps during the day. This allows her to notice a strange phenomenon—a squash that appears on her roof. Carly soon meets Lewis, a musician and a rat, who explains that the squash is a member of his band, taking the place of a rat who has been abducted by owls. When Lewis introduces Carly to the other members of his rat community in the Whistle Root woods, she learns that the owls’ current behavior is abnormal—they used to dance to the rats’ moonlight tunes before they suddenly began snatching them. Thus begins a bizarre journey for Carly, who must discover the reason behind the owls’ sudden change of heart and other strange occurrences in the woods and her town. Though the back story behind the Whistle Root wood and various characters’ behavior is eventually explained, the explanations themselves are often disjointed and don’t quite add up. This feeling of arbitrariness makes it hard for readers to engage with the rats’ plight. While this quiet book achieves a timeless feel—being identifiably set neither in our world nor in another—this cannot atone for a history of the magical woods and creatures that sometimes feels nonsensical. (Fantasy. 8-10)

 

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-79263-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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A treat for proto–Percy Jackson fans.

THE QUEST FOR THE GOLDEN FLEAS

From the Zeus the Mighty series , Vol. 1

A center for rescued pets becomes the stage for adventures of literally mythical import in this series opener.

Convinced that they’re the gods after whom they’ve been named by the Mount Olympus Pet Center’s myth-loving owner (and Boyer drops hints that they’re not wrong), Zeus, a rescued hamster, and allies Demeter, Athena, and Ares—respectively a cricket, a tabby cat, and a scene-stealing pug of big stomach but little brain—get out at night to face such challenges as the deadly whirlpool of Charybdis (a stuck toilet). After listening (not very attentively) to a podcast version of “Jason and the Argonauts,” Zeus decides to settle a long-standing rivalry with a pufferfish named Poseidon by returning in triumph with the “Golden Fleas.” Little does he know that the quest will take him into Uncharted Territory (the empty store next door) where shrieking harpies (bats) lurk….While all of this doesn’t map very closely on the original yarn, it does offer opportunities aplenty for displays of courage, cleverness, and loyalty…as well as lots of comical byplay. Elkerton adds to both the comedy and the drama with vignettes and larger scenes of partly anthropomorphic animals in chitons and divine regalia, often looking dismayed or, in Ares’ case, ever on the lookout for Mutt Nuggets. A closing section includes further information on the source story and Greek myths in general.

A treat for proto–Percy Jackson fans. (map, floor plan) (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3547-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Under the Stars

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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