Ian Fleming’s strong-minded auto takes a new road trip, and if its passengers are largely just along for the ride, it’s still a grand outing.

Powering the decrepit camper van that Mr. Tooting is restoring with a massive engine that he finds in the branches of a tree turns out to be like “putting the heart of a Tyrannosaurus rex into a hamster.” When he, his wife and their children, Lucy, Jeremy (Jem) and little Harry, climb aboard to take a spin, they find themselves not only roaring down back roads at terrifying speeds but soaring off over the Channel. Chitty, it soon becomes clear, has an agenda: It seems that its headlights have been repurposed atop the Eiffel Tower, its wheels are buried near the Sphinx and its body has somehow washed ashore in Madagascar. Along the way, Cottrell Boyce folds in winking references to the 1964 original and its author (including a certain heavily armed Aston Martin DB5 that James Bond fans will recognize). He also trots in strangely familiar would-be carnappers Tiny Jack and his unctuous but deadly Nanny, along with the odd giant squid or horde of poisonous spiders to keep the Tooting children on their toes. The book ends with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang back together, poised for further outings. Berger depicts the Tootings as a biracial family but otherwise adds to the tale’s antique flavor with frequent, retro ink-and-wash drawings. The old racer’s still good for another lap—and maybe more. (afterword). (Fantasy. 10-12)


Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5957-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012


An imaginative premise, fledged in showy if sometimes overdecorated finery.

A corvid catastrophe threatens swashbuckling Blue Jay and his mixed avian crew after a treetop shipwreck leaves them to the tender mercies of a murder of crows.

Reputed to be “generally the most bloodthirsty and fearsome pirate to sail the high skies” (but not really that bad), Blue Jay flies the Jolly Robin from his ship the Grosbeak. Aside, however, from occasional harmless plundering, he much prefers sailing grandly through the clouds. Still, after falling into the clutches of his more viciously piratical cousin Teach and getting their flight feathers clipped, he and his scrappy crew—particularly Gabriel, a recent hatchling who grows in the tale from an oversized and ungainly bumbler into a magnificent Branta goose—must act. They rise to defeat the crows in a pair of savage battles with help from flocks of sparrows and an intrepid mole. In his debut as a novelist, Nash’s dialogue comes off as stilted (“This evening… I managed to successfully facilitate a visit between our unwitting weasels and a she wolf,” reports the mole), and his efforts to inject mystical notes with repeated references to geese as gods or godlings seem labored. Otherwise, he crafts a merry romp that is much enhanced by frequent formally drawn ink-and-color scenes of an airborne galleon and full-body portraits of birds posing in 17th-century costume.

An imaginative premise, fledged in showy if sometimes overdecorated finery. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3264-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012


Echoes of Peter Pan notwithstanding, a less-than-seaworthy outing.

Endowed with the trappings of a comedic pirate yarn but not its heart, this series opener focuses more on one character’s soul-searching than nautical action.

Hardly has sheltered young “Old Worlder” Jem arrived on tropical islands believed to be haunted by the ghosts of exterminated natives than he is kidnapped by genteel pirates led by a grandiose pipsqueak. He is then rescued by the Lost Souls—an unwashed crew of orphans and runaways (all 13 or younger) sailing the supposed ghost ship Margaret’s Hop (the terminal “e” having been lost in the past) under the command of fiery but insecure Capt. Scarlet McCray. Guided by a map that belonged to his vanished uncle and pursued by the aforementioned pirates, Jem and the Lost Souls set out to find a fabled treasure. The search, however, proves little more than a vehicle for Scarlet’s continual second-guessing as she frets about being a proper, “captainly” leader and struggles to keep the Lost Souls entertained and a rebellious crew member in line. In the wake of numerous contrived obstacles overcome, the sudden re-emergence of Scarlet’s suppressed awareness that she’s half-Islander serves as a more sharply felt (if, at least for readers, not particularly cogent) climax than the discovery of the “treasure.” This turns out to be a glade so mystically peaceful that the fact that it’s surrounded by birds’ nests full of rubies comes across as just a nice added feature.

Echoes of Peter Pan notwithstanding, a less-than-seaworthy outing. (map, glossary) (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-448-45776-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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