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AGENT LION

Readers will enjoy watching this clueless detective get the “mane” job done in spite of himself.

An inept lion detective searches for a missing cat.

After receiving his assignment from Ms. Chief (an elephant), Agent Lion takes two hours to reach the home of Fluffy’s owner, Ms. Flamingo. (A map tracking his route from his office shows stops at fast-food joints and entertainment venues. Readers will note the more direct path he could have followed had distractions not beckoned.) Arriving on the scene, Agent Lion asks Ms. Flamingo ludicrous questions and posits absurd theories; checks for clues in unlikely places, including the refrigerator; and wreaks havoc when interviewing neighbors throughout her building. As the self-absorbed, doughnut-loving gumshoe continues his ridiculous investigation, Ms. Flamingo, patience gone, declares the unsolved case over. Still, she invites Agent Lion back to her apartment for tea. Dejectedly arranging the couch’s pillows, Agent Lion finally—and unwittingly—locates Fluffy. All ends well as neighbors convene for a sweet celebration. This is a lightweight but humorous story; readers will chuckle at the silly questions Agent Lion asks and the witty, knowing comments he makes about cats. The ending, though predictable and unoriginal, satisfies. Lion is amusing; self-confident; and, as depicted in these delicate cartoon illustrations, very expressive, as are the other animal characters (including the beady-eyed pigeon Lion spies on a rooftop). Readers will also appreciate the endpapers’ displays of mouthwatering doughnuts.

Readers will enjoy watching this clueless detective get the “mane” job done in spite of himself. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-286917-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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KNIGHT OWL

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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