Earnest animal fantasy with exceptionally designed illustrations but uncomfortably set in a time and place undeserving of a...

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ANOTHER QUEST FOR CELESTE

From the Nest for Celeste series , Vol. 2

A timid mouse goes on an inadvertent journey.

Cornered by a house cat, Celeste (A Nest for Celeste, 2010) spends the night nestled in a wagon laden with cotton. In the morning, the wagon departs with Celeste aboard, and her home disappears behind her. Her voyage is episodic, featuring new friends, myriad hiding places (a sewing box; a barrel of cornmeal), and dangers (a steamboat that sinks, fur trappers, a season that gets cold). The shy little rodent travels up the Mississippi River from “a long way south,” landing someplace with “brilliant fall colors and icicles and snowdrifts.” Other animals protect her, and then she’s adopted by a white boy named Abe (Lincoln, the author’s note confirms), who’s portrayed almost romantically as particularly kind, thoughtful, and hungry for education. Descriptions of nature are lush; Cole’s black-and-white pencil drawings touch almost every spread, soft and gentle, evocative, sometimes covering entire pages. Unfortunately, the piece ignores an underlying ugliness: in the early 1800s in Mississippi, Celeste’s cozy, “safe” original home—a plantation—almost certainly would have been a site of slavery, and the story’s only obviously black human—a friendly cook on the steamboat—might have been enslaved.

Earnest animal fantasy with exceptionally designed illustrations but uncomfortably set in a time and place undeserving of a rosy glow. (author’s note) (Animal fantasy. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-265812-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after.

RISE OF THE EARTH DRAGON

From the Dragon Masters series , Vol. 1

Drake has been selected by the king to serve as a Dragon Master, quite a change for an 8-year-old farmer boy.

The dragons are a secret, and the reason King Roland has them is a mystery, but what is clear is that the Dragon Stone has identified Drake as one of the rare few children who have a special connection with dragons and the ability to serve as a trainer. Drake’s dragon is a long brown creature with, at first, no particular talents that Drake can identify. He calls the dragon Worm. It isn’t long before Drake begins to realize he has a very strong connection with Worm and can share what seem to be his dragon’s thoughts. After one of the other Dragon Masters decides to illicitly take the dragons outside, disaster strikes. The cave they are passing through collapses, blocking the passageway, and then Worm’s special talent becomes evident. The first of a new series of early chapter books, this entry is sure to attract fans. Brief chapters, large print, lots of action, attractive illustrations in every spread, including a maplike panorama, an enviable protagonist—who wouldn’t want to be a Dragon Master?—all combine to make an entertaining read.

With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-64624-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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