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

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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We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face.

THE BAD GUYS

From the Bad Guys series , Vol. 1

Four misunderstood villains endeavor to turn over a new leaf…or a new rap sheet in Blabey's frenzied romp.

As readers open the first page of this early chapter book, Mr. Wolf is right there to greet them, bemoaning his reputation. "Just because I've got BIG POINTY TEETH and RAZOR-SHARP CLAWS and I occasionally like to dress up like an OLD LADY, that doesn't mean… / … I'm a BAD GUY." To prove this very fact, Mr. Wolf enlists three equally slandered friends into the Good Guys Club: Mr. Snake (aka the Chicken Swallower), Mr. Piranha (aka the Butt Biter), and Mr. Shark (aka Jaws). After some convincing from Mr. Wolf, the foursome sets off determined to un-smirch their names (and reluctantly curbing their appetites). Although these predators find that not everyone is ready to be at the receiving end of their helpful efforts, they use all their Bad Guy know-how to manage a few hilarious good deeds. Blabey has hit the proverbial nail on the head, kissed it full on the mouth, and handed it a stick of Acme dynamite. With illustrations that startle in their manic comedy and deadpan direct address and with a narrative that follows four endearingly sardonic characters trying to push past (sometimes successfully) their fear-causing natures, this book instantly joins the classic ranks of Captain Underpants and The Stinky Cheese Man.

We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-91240-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph.

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WISHTREE

Generations of human and animal families grow and change, seen from the point of view of the red oak Wishing Tree that shelters them all.

Most trees are introverts at heart. So says Red, who is over 200 years old and should know. Not to mention that they have complicated relationships with humans. But this tree also has perspective on its animal friends and people who live within its purview—not just witnessing, but ultimately telling the tales of young people coming to this country alone or with family. An Irish woman named Maeve is the first, and a young 10-year-old Muslim girl named Samar is the most recent. Red becomes the repository for generations of wishes; this includes both observing Samar’s longing wish and sporting the hurtful word that another young person carves into their bark as a protest to Samar’s family’s presence. (Red is monoecious, they explain, with both male and female flowers.) Newbery medalist Applegate succeeds at interweaving an immigrant story with an animated natural world and having it all make sense. As Red observes, animals compete for resources just as humans do, and nature is not always pretty or fair or kind. This swiftly moving yet contemplative read is great for early middle grade, reluctant or tentative readers, or precocious younger students.

A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-04322-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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