A sobering, beautifully presented extinction story.

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THE TRAGIC TALE OF THE GREAT AUK

Hundreds of thousands of great auks once swam in cold northern waters, but these birds have all disappeared owing to a tragic intersection of climate change and human activities.

Thornhill starts with an admirable depiction of this remarkable bird, known even to prehistoric cave painters. "Behold the Great Auk! The Gejrfugl! The northern penguin!" she begins. A tall black-and-white bird stands proudly on a rock on the facing page, looking across at a flock on another rocky island, outlined in white like ghosts. Her illustrations, done with stylus and tablet, have the look of acrylic paintings, and they are striking, with text sitting directly on the double-page illustrations. She tells this sad story smoothly and relatively gently while showing readers flocks of identifiable seabirds, schools of fish, small boats (a Viking ship, an Inuit kayak) on rough seas, the back of a fox looking down on an inaccessible island roost, a chick being fed, collections of eggs, and stuffed birds in a 19th-century museum. Many illustrations pull back to show the landscape, but some are close-ups—most effectively, a broken egg in front of the boots of the Icelandic fishermen who strangled the last two auks remaining in the world. She concludes with the legacy of this loss, part of the impetus for the bird conservation movement.

A sobering, beautifully presented extinction story. (map, glossary, list of extinct species, resources, references) (Nonfiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-55498-865-5

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Templeton Twins hidden in integrand function (5, 3). Read it to solve it! (Fiction. 9-13)

THE TEMPLETON TWINS HAVE AN IDEA

From the Templeton Twins series , Vol. 1

The scene-hogging narrator steals the show in this clever series opener.

Since the mother of 12-year-old twins Abigail and John recently died, their father, professor Elton Templeton, has decided to take his knack for inventing to Tickeridge-Baltock Institute of Technology (aka Tick-Tock Tech). At the professor’s opening lecture, disgruntled former student Dean D. Dean accuses him of stealing his idea for the Personal One-Man Helicopter. When the professor denies Dean’s involvement in his invention, Dean (with the help of his own twin brother, Dan) kidnaps the Templeton twins and their ridiculous dog, hoping to retrieve the device as ransom. How this caper, accompanied by mechanical-like illustrations, will end matters less than how the narrator will report it. Nearly a character himself, the self-important, over-the-top narrator takes pleasure in admonishing his readers (“If you don’t remember me saying that, I urge you to turn back to Chapter 2 (the first Chapter 2) and refresh your memory, because I distinctly remember saying it, and I remember you reading it”). Occasionally tedious, his end-of-chapter “Questions for Review” emphasize humor—and his ego. Also adding to the fun, particularly for word buffs, is Abigail’s use of cryptic crossword puzzles. A tender ending to this otherwise comical story acknowledges the family’s grief.

Templeton Twins hidden in integrand function (5, 3). Read it to solve it! (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8118-6679-8

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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