Animal husbandry done right for the young reader set.

READ REVIEW

COUNTING SHEEP

From the Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet series , Vol. 2

It’s not every chapter book that features a girl elbow-deep in a sheep’s birthing canal, but Callie Vee’s no ordinary gal.

Although she’s continuing her award-winning middle-grade series (The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, 2009, etc.) with an early chapter-book one, Kelly presents Calpurnia Tate as the same girl with the same problems. Her mother wants her to be a lady when all she wants is to become a naturalist. The year is 1901 (the year after the action of The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, 2015), and there are other problems besides gender expectations. While studying a Vanessa cardui, or painted lady, Callie discovers a torn wing and must determine if she’s the kind of girl who tries to fix broken butterflies. (Bafflingly, despite the prominence of painted ladies in the story, the butterflies depicted on the cover are monarchs.) Later Callie’s mother’s prized sheep is due to give birth. When complications arise, it’s up to our heroine to save the day using ingenuity and know-how. Callie’s adventures in animal care adapt easily to this format, losing none of the protagonist’s wit and 13-year-old wisdom, though whether older readers will follow her adventures in a younger reading format is open to question. Certainly children without prior knowledge of the older novels will find much to love in Callie’s fight against early-20th-century mores and attitudes, but 13 is an odd age for a chapter-book protagonist.

Animal husbandry done right for the young reader set. (Historical fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-870-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS

This is rather a silly story, and I don't believe children will think it particularly funny. A paper hanger and painter finds time on his hands in winter, and spends it in reading of arctic exploration. It is all given reality when he receives a present of a penguin, which makes its nest in the refrigerator on cubes of ice, mates with a lonely penguin from the zoo, and produces a family of penguins which help set the Poppers on their feet.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1938

ISBN: 978-0-316-05843-8

Page Count: 139

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1938

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Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers.

THE CREATURE OF THE PINES

From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 1

Elliot’s first day of school turns out to be more than he bargained for.

Elliot Eisner—skinny and pale with curly brown hair—is a bit nervous about being the new kid. Thankfully, he hits it off with fellow new student, “punk rock”–looking Uchenna Devereaux, a black girl with twists (though they actually look like dreads in Aly’s illustrations). On a first-day field trip to New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, the pair investigates a noise in the trees. The cause? A Jersey Devil: a blue-furred, red-bellied and -winged mythical creature that looks like “a tiny dragon” with cloven hooves, like a deer’s, on its hind feet. Unwittingly, the duo bonds with the creature by feeding it, and it later follows them back to the bus. Unsurprisingly, they lose the creature (which they alternately nickname Jersey and Bonechewer), which forces them to go to their intimidating, decidedly odd teacher, Peruvian Professor Fauna, for help in recovering it. The book closes with Professor Fauna revealing the truth—he heads a secret organization committed to protecting mythical creatures—and inviting the children to join, a neat setup for what is obviously intended to be a series. The predictable plot is geared to newly independent readers who are not yet ready for the usual heft of contemporary fantasies. A brief history lesson given by a mixed-race associate of Fauna’s in which she compares herself to the American “melting pot” manages to come across as simultaneously corrective and appropriative.

Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3170-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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