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CRESS WATERCRESS

Warmhearted and utterly charming.

A young bunny copes with the death of her father and the move to a new home.

Mama moves her children, Cress and baby brother Kip, one spring evening as the moon is in the sky. Their new home is in a dead, hollow oak tree called the Broken Arms; its ramshackle state reminds Cress of the Watercress family’s loss. Natural dangers, including, most saliently, a snake nicknamed the Final Drainpipe and Monsieur Reynard the fox, feel more immediate here. As they settle in, there’s a perfect seasoning of domesticity, adventure, and contained peril, as on the day Cress and Finian, from a neighboring squirrel family, are swept over a waterfall on a raft. Cress confronts—and charms—Tunk the Honeybear with aplomb, but then she and Finny are briefly held captive by an arrogant, pretentious skunk. Maguire’s narrative offers wry puns, rich vocabulary, and entertaining dialogue, and Litchfield’s glowing, slightly stylized, full-color illustrations present an enchanting, magical peek into this woodland world. Cress’ personality is nicely realized as a child on the cusp of growing up as she deals with sorrow, crankily takes responsibility for Kip, and argues with her mother (who, like Little Women’s Marmee, puts her own anger in check to step up for her children). The anthropomorphized world feels true to itself and to the animal natures inhabiting it.

Warmhearted and utterly charming. (Animal fantasy. 7-11)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1100-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

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THE BAD GUYS

From the Bad Guys series , Vol. 1

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

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. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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CODY HARMON, KING OF PETS

From the Franklin School Friends series

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading.

When Franklin School principal Mr. Boone announces a pet-show fundraiser, white third-grader Cody—whose lack of skill and interest in academics is matched by keen enthusiasm for and knowledge of animals—discovers his time to shine.

As with other books in this series, the children and adults are believable and well-rounded. Even the dialogue is natural—no small feat for a text easily accessible to intermediate readers. Character growth occurs, organically and believably. Students occasionally, humorously, show annoyance with teachers: “He made mad squinty eyes at Mrs. Molina, which fortunately she didn’t see.” Readers will be kept entertained by Cody’s various problems and the eventual solutions. His problems include needing to raise $10 to enter one of his nine pets in the show (he really wants to enter all of them), his troublesome dog Angus—“a dog who ate homework—actually, who ate everything and then threw up afterward”—struggles with homework, and grappling with his best friend’s apparently uncaring behavior toward a squirrel. Serious values and issues are explored with a light touch. The cheery pencil illustrations show the school’s racially diverse population as well as the memorable image of Mr. Boone wearing an elephant costume. A minor oddity: why does a child so immersed in animal facts call his male chicken a rooster but his female chickens chickens?

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30223-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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