Dominant-narrative historical adventure with appeal to dog lovers.

BALTO AND THE RACE AGAINST TIME

From the Time Dogs series , Vol. 1

Time-traveling dogs get the chance to help world-famous Balto in this chapter-book series opener that blends gentle adventure with history.

Yellow Labrador Baxter and his dog pals (border collie Newton, Jack Russell Trevor, papillon Maia, and three-legged mutt Titch) accidentally tumble to the year 1925 in Alaska via a magical van. As they travel backward in time, the creaky old canines become young dogs again. In this strange new location, they meet Balto and a crew of Siberian huskies who are on a rescue mission to deliver medicine to sick children. Emerging readers can use context clues to build vocabulary, and frequent illustrations both break up text and assist readers in visualizing the variety of dog characters. Even with this assist, some may lose track of minor characters in the wide ensemble. A refrain about what constitutes bravery offers opportunity for social-emotional development alongside comprehension. In Seaman and the Great Northern Adventure, the dogs travel to 1805 and become entangled in Lewis and Clark’s famous expedition, encountering enslaved African-American York and Shoshone guide Sacagawea. Unfortunately, Sacagawea fulfills the trope of mystic, seeming to be the only human who can intuit the dogs’ language. Author’s notes provide additional historical information and context for the stories.

Dominant-narrative historical adventure with appeal to dog lovers. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-18633-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Godwin Books/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.

THE MYSTERIOUS MESSENGER

Eleven-year-old Maria Russo helps her charlatan mother hoodwink customers, but Maria has a spirited secret.

Maria’s mother, the psychic Madame Destine, cons widows out of their valuables with the assistance of their apartment building’s super, Mr. Fox. Madame Destine home-schools Maria, and because Destine is afraid of unwanted attention, she forbids Maria from talking to others. Maria is allowed to go to the library, where new librarian Ms. Madigan takes an interest in Maria that may cause her trouble. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Maria’s new upstairs neighbor, would like to be friends. All this interaction makes it hard for Maria to keep her secret: that she is visited by Edward, a spirit who tells her the actual secrets of Madame Destine’s clients via spirit writing. When Edward urges Maria to help Mrs. Fisher, Madame Destine’s most recent mark, Maria must overcome her shyness and her fear of her mother—helping Mrs. Fisher may be the key to the mysterious past Maria uncovers and a brighter future. Alas, picture-book–creator Ford’s middle-grade debut is a muddled, melodramatic mystery with something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel: In addition to the premise, there’s a tragically dead father, a mysterious family tree, and the Beat poets. Sluggish pacing; stilted, unrealistic dialogue; cartoonishly stock characters; and unattractive, flat illustrations make this one to miss. Maria and Sebastian are both depicted with brown skin, hers lighter than his; the other principals appear to be white.

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit. (author’s note) (Paranormal mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20567-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale.

A WHALE OF THE WILD

After a tsunami devastates their habitat in the Salish Sea, a young orca and her brother embark on a remarkable adventure.

Vega’s matriarchal family expects her to become a hunter and wayfinder, with her younger brother, Deneb, protecting and supporting her. Invited to guide her family to their Gathering Place to hunt salmon, Vega’s underwater miscalculations endanger them all, and an embarrassed Vega questions whether she should be a wayfinder. When the baby sister she hoped would become her life companion is stillborn, a distraught Vega carries the baby away to a special resting place, shocking her grieving family. Dispatched to find his missing sister, Deneb locates Vega in the midst of a terrible tsunami. To escape the waters polluted by shattered boats, Vega leads Deneb into unfamiliar open sea. Alone and hungry, the young siblings encounter a spectacular giant whale and travel briefly with shark-hunting orcas. Trusting her instincts and gaining emotional strength from contemplating the vastness of the sky, Vega knows she must lead her brother home and help save her surviving family. In alternating first-person voices, Vega and Deneb tell their harrowing story, engaging young readers while educating them about the marine ecosystem. Realistic black-and-white illustrations enhance the maritime setting.

A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale. (maps, wildlife facts, tribes of the Salish Sea watershed, environmental and geographical information, how to help orcas, author’s note, artist’s note, resources) (Animal fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299592-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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