THE TRAGIC TALE OF THE GREAT AUK

A sobering, beautifully presented extinction story.

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. 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

STAY

Entrancing and uplifting.

A small dog, the elderly woman who owns him, and a homeless girl come together to create a tale of serendipity.

Piper, almost 12, her parents, and her younger brother are at the bottom of a long slide toward homelessness. Finally in a family shelter, Piper finds that her newfound safety gives her the opportunity to reach out to someone who needs help even more. Jewel, mentally ill, lives in the park with her dog, Baby. Unwilling to leave her pet, and forbidden to enter the shelter with him, she struggles with the winter weather. Ree, also homeless and with a large dog, helps when she can, but after Jewel gets sick and is hospitalized, Baby’s taken to the animal shelter, and Ree can’t manage the complex issues alone. It’s Piper, using her best investigative skills, who figures out Jewel’s backstory. Still, she needs all the help of the shelter Firefly Girls troop that she joins to achieve her accomplishment: to raise enough money to provide Jewel and Baby with a secure, hopeful future and, maybe, with their kindness, to inspire a happier story for Ree. Told in the authentic alternating voices of loving child and loyal dog, this tale could easily slump into a syrupy melodrama, but Pyron lets her well-drawn characters earn their believable happy ending, step by challenging step, by reaching out and working together. Piper, her family, and Jewel present white; Pyron uses hair and naming convention, respectively, to cue Ree as black and Piper’s friend Gabriela as Latinx.

Entrancing and uplifting. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-283922-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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