Who doesn’t love smart, friendly birds on a secret mission?

HOMER ON THE CASE

Homer the homing pigeon and Lulu, an Amazon parrot, collaborate to defeat a wily, sewer-dwelling alligator with a taste for bling.

The engaging conceit is that Homer long ago taught himself to read. Channeling his favorite cartoon detective, Dick Tracy, he’s determined to discover why rats and cats are stealing valuables from people in the park. With the help of his wild pigeon friends, he observes that the shiny stash is being taken into the storm sewers. Since he’s a pigeon of some talent, he’s convinced he and Lulu can explore the tunnels, solve the mystery of where the stolen items are being taken, and safely get away. They discover a huge, bejeweled alligator being served by a cast of minions. But how to relate this remarkable story to Otto, Homer’s owner, and Charlotte, Lulu’s human friend? Homer uses his ability to read words and Lulu, her skill in speaking them to communicate the necessary information. Each chapter begins with a panel of attractive pencil illustrations that record the highlights to follow. In them, Otto presents White, and Charlotte has darker skin. The birds’ exploits are surprisingly believable and enjoyable to follow in Homer’s first-person narration. The humans are appropriately less developed. Why Snaps the alligator loves jewels and how the rats and cats came to serve her are barely explored, leaving this potential adversary rather flat.

Who doesn’t love smart, friendly birds on a secret mission? (Fantasy. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68263-254-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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A multicultural title with obvious appeal for animal-loving middle graders.

TIGER BOY

When a Bengali boy finds and saves a tiger cub from a man who wants to sell her on the black market, he realizes that the schoolwork he resents could lead to a career protecting his beloved Sunderbans island home.

When the not-yet-weaned cub escapes from a nearby reserve, Neel and many of his neighbors join the search. But some are in the pay of greedy Gupta, a shady entrepreneur who’s recently settled in their community. Even Neel’s father is tempted by Gupta’s money, although he knows that Gupta doesn’t plan to take the cub back to the refuge. Neel and his sister use the boy’s extensive knowledge of the island’s swampy interior to find the cub’s hiding place and lure it out so it can be returned to its mother. The Kolkota-born author visited the remote Sunderbans in the course of her research. She lovingly depicts this beautiful tropical forest in the context of Neel’s efforts to find the cub and his reluctance to leave his familiar world. While the conflicts resolve a bit too easily, the sense of place is strong and the tiger cub’s rescue very satisfying. Pastel illustrations will help readers envision the story.

A multicultural title with obvious appeal for animal-loving middle graders. (author's note, organizations, glossary) (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-58089-660-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one.

THE WILD ROBOT ESCAPES

Roz, a robot who learned to adapt to life among wild creatures in her first outing, seeks to return to the island she calls home.

Brown’s sequel to The Wild Robot (2016) continues an intriguing premise: What would happen to a robot after challenges in an unexpected environment cause it to evolve in unusual ways? As this book opens, Roz is delivered to a farm where she helps a widower with two young children run a dairy operation that has been in his family for generations. Roz reveals her backstory to the cows, who are supportive of the robot’s determination to return to the island and to her adopted son, the goose Brightbill. The cows, the children, and finally Brightbill himself come to Roz’s aid. The focus on Roz’s escape from human control results in a somewhat solemn and episodic narrative, with an extended journey and chase after Roz leaves the farm. Dr. Molovo, a literal deus ex machina, appears near the end of the story to provide a means of rescue. She is Roz’s designer/creator, and, intrigued by the robot’s adaptation and evolution but cognizant of the threat that those achievements might represent to humans, she assists Roz and Brightbill in their quest. The satisfactory (if inevitable-feeling) conclusion may prompt discussion about individual agency and determination, whether for robots or people.

If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38204-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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