Both chapter-book and reluctant readers will go for this one like cats to paletas.

UGLY CAT & PABLO

Ugly Cat and Pablo are two tough dudes with hearts of gold and a penchant for miscommunication and (mis)adventure.

Pablo is a mouse who dreams of adventure; his best friend, Ugly Cat, dreams of food. When Pablo suggests an outing to the park, Ugly Cat is hooked. After all, there is always the possibility of food in an outing to the park. Sure enough, food abounds, but then they see “THE CART.” The cart sells paletas—the Spanish word for Popsicles—Ugly Cat’s most favorite treat. An “easy peasy lemon squeezy” plan is hatched to obtain a paleta, and from there on, it is all a series of mishaps and misunderstandings. Knight’s black-and-white illustrations energetically capture the zaniness of the caper. Each protagonist speaks in a distinctive typeface, which also adds to the visual fun. The book has a liberal sprinkling of Spanish throughout; most of it will be understood by the context, but there is enough vocabulary that will be understood only by readers familiar with Spanish to make them feel extra accomplished. (There is a glossary for those who are not.) And our heroes? Well, they come out of the escapade unharmed and ready to plot their next adventure—“as long as we go together. And as long as there are snacks.” A series is born.

Both chapter-book and reluctant readers will go for this one like cats to paletas. (recipe) (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-94092-4

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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A Christmas cozy, read straight or bit by bit through the season.

HOW WINSTON DELIVERED CHRISTMAS

Neither snow nor rain nor mountains of yummy cheese stay the carrier of a letter to Santa.

So carelessly does 8-year-old Oliver stuff his very late letter to Santa into the mailbox that it falls out behind his back—leaving Winston, a “small, grubby white mouse” with an outsized heart, determined to deliver it personally though he has no idea where to go. Smith presents Winston’s Christmas Eve trek in 24 minichapters, each assigned a December “day” and all closing with both twists or cliffhangers and instructions (mostly verbal, unfortunately) for one or more holiday-themed recipes or craft projects. Though he veers occasionally into preciosity (Winston “tried to ignore the grumbling, rumbling noises coming from his tummy”), he also infuses his holiday tale with worthy values. Occasional snowy scenes have an Edwardian look appropriate to the general tone, with a white default in place but a few dark-skinned figures in view. Less-crafty children will struggle with the scantly illustrated projects, which run from paper snowflakes to clothespin dolls and Christmas crackers with or without “snaps,” but lyrics to chestnuts like “The 12 Days of Christmas” (and “Jingle Bells,” which is not a Christmas song, but never mind) at the end invite everyone to sing along.

A Christmas cozy, read straight or bit by bit through the season. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68412-983-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Silver Dolphin

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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