A rousing, feel-good animal story of courage and compassion—a winner.

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A Raccoon's Tale

SEVEN SAVES THE NOTCH

After her home is destroyed, a raccoon embarks on a dangerous journey to find the safe haven foretold in legend in this illustrated children’s book.

Seven-Rings Moon, called Seven for short, is a young raccoon who lives happily with her mother and siblings in an old, abandoned church. One day, though, a big yellow machine comes to tear down the building, and Seven and her sister, Arnica, barely manage to escape. When they stop running, their mother and brother are nowhere to be found. They find their grandfather Greyson, who relates a legend: “In a month in which there is a copper-colored moon, a raccoon with seven black rings on its tail will be born”—just like Seven. Greyson tells her she must travel to a “safe place for the creatures of the woods and the birds of the air” called the Notch. “It’s your destiny,” he says. “You’re not only meant to go there, Seven. You’re also meant to save it, to stop those who would destroy it.” Seven doubts that a little raccoon like her can do anything, but Greyson assures her that she can and must. An odyssey filled with many adventures and perils ensues, giving Seven a chance to sharpen her wits by concocting clever schemes. She also gains allies who know of and support her quest, such as a bobcat, a Newfoundland dog, and a pair of voluble gray squirrels. Working together, they can perhaps find a way to defeat the men and their machines that threaten the Notch. Hodgkins (Little Loon, 2015, etc.) offers an exciting, well-written tale that’s especially moving for its vision of a peaceable kingdom in which predators and prey cooperate against the real enemy: habitat loss and human greed. Another plus is that the author’s animal characters act (more or less) like animals rather than being disguised human beings. There are echoes of Richard Adams’ Watership Down in the creatures’ stories and in an authoritarian raccoon community that’s a mild version of Efrafra, but Hodgkins makes this tale her own. Though the environmental message is clear, the book isn’t preachy (it’s often very funny) and shows how some humans do care about and work for animals.

A rousing, feel-good animal story of courage and compassion—a winner.

Pub Date: April 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9908706-3-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Brattle Publishing Group

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes.

THE TOWER OF NERO

From the Trials of Apollo series , Vol. 5

In this tumultuous series closer, Apollo, transformed into a mortal teenager, takes on both a deified emperor in a luxurious Manhattan high-rise and an older adversary.

Lester/Apollo’s coast-to-coast quest reaches its climactic stage as, with help from both eager squads of fledgling demigods from Camp Half-Blood and reluctant allies from realms deep below New York, he invades the palatial lair of Emperor Nero—followed by a solo bout with another foe from a past struggle. Riordan lays on the transformation of the heedless, arrogant sun god to a repentant lover of his long-neglected semidivine offspring and of humanity in general, which has served as the series’ binding theme, thickly enough to have his humbled narrator even apologizing (twice!) to his underwear for having to change it periodically. Still, the author delivers a fast, action-driven plot with high stakes, lots of fighting, and occasional splashes of gore brightened by banter and silly bits, so readers aren’t likely to mind all the hand-wringing. He also leaves any real-life parallels to the slick, megalomaniacal, emotionally abusive Nero entirely up to readers to discern and dishes out just deserts all round, neatly tying up loose ends in a set of closing vignettes. The supporting cast is predominantly White, with passing mention of diverse representation.

A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes. (glossary) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-4645-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

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