A purrfect caper for a not-too-criminal kitty


From the Atticus Claw series

A real cat burglar—literally—stars in this British import.

A mysterious job offer takes Atticus, a brown tabby cat with a talent for theft, to an English seaside town. There, he learns that some crafty magpies want to hire him to steal all the town’s jewelry. Magpies being notoriously deceitful, Atticus is suspicious, but the promise of sardines as payment wins him over. In Littleton-on-Sea, not a notably diverse town, he finds a home with the family of a police detective, the Cheddars, and gets to burgling. The more he steals, the more the family’s dad gets to work, so Atticus thinks he’s doing the Cheddars a favor. However, when Inspector Cheddar gets in trouble because he can’t solve the recent crime wave, Atticus decides to turn the tables on the magpies. Meanwhile the Cheddar children begin to notice some interesting things about Atticus. Can they convince their dad when they tell him who's behind the burglaries? And can they do it before the magpies raid the local fair? Gray endows Atticus with such a confident personality that readers will be sure he’ll solve everything, but she includes some nice suspense later in the story when things go drastically wrong. Kids who like a bit of light crime fiction will certainly enjoy it, but readers who love animals, especially cats, will be purring throughout.

A purrfect caper for a not-too-criminal kitty . (Fantasy/mystery. 7-9)

Pub Date: July 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-571-28449-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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Young environmentalists will appreciate seeing how facts can defy frenzy.


From the Orca Echoes series

Through the investigations of young Cricket and her friends, readers learn how to distinguish evidence of a cougar from other animals—and are briefed on cougar conservation and monitoring.

When Cricket and her friend Shilo notice a foul smell coming from piled-up snow and branches under a bush, Cricket suspects that a cougar has hidden its dinner. Her father, Warden McKay, proves her right when he shows up at her school, giving an emergency presentation about cougars. A cougar has been seen in their village, which is located inside Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta. After Cricket’s dad informs kids about some cougar facts, Principal Singh gives students a rare week off from school. It’s odd, then, that the warden’s children proceed to wander the village. However, McDowell’s books about Cricket typically favor facts about wildlife above all else, and, also typically, this one does not disappoint. It even clarifies one statistic as specifically Canadian. Overall, the dialogue is more natural than in Salamander Rescue (2016), if equally packed with information. The nine chapters and epilogue are accessible, entertaining, and empowering for young naturalists. The compelling plot twist: Anxious villagers are accusing cougars of a series of large-mammal crimes. Cricket, knowing that cougar relocation can be fatal, wants to ensure continued, occasional village visits by a family of tracked cougars. She devises a scheme to trap the real culprit. Illustrations are pleasant enough, depicting a largely white cast, though at least three characters have Asian surnames.

Young environmentalists will appreciate seeing how facts can defy frenzy. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2064-7

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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In the end, it’s hard not to love a main character who wears a one-man-band outfit to the library, in case he finds a very...


From the Claude series , Vol. 4

It’s difficult to describe the Claude books without using the word surreal. The new book in the series may be the sweetest surrealist children’s book ever published.

Claude’s best friend is a sock. Sir Bobblysock is very nattily dressed, and Smith gets a lot of mileage out of one joke, putting the sock in ever more absurd outfits. Sir Bobblysock wears pajamas, then earmuffs, and there’s a reference to a “glitzy leotard” he puts on before aerobics class. Most of the humor in the book comes from one basic premise: This would never, ever happen in real life. Sometimes the joke works. It’s very funny when a girl suggests Claude use a tea tray as a sled, and readers learn that “He always kept one in his beret—with a full tea set just in case there was a tea-based emergency.” It’s less funny to read about Sir Bobblysock’s bunion and his session in a heated foot spa. Instead of laughing, kids may say, “What’s a bunion?” or, “That would never, ever happen in real life.” Much too often, the book is perplexing instead of amusing. But there’s no denying that Claude is sweet and charming, and Sir Bobblysock looks fantastic in his checkered nightcap.  

In the end, it’s hard not to love a main character who wears a one-man-band outfit to the library, in case he finds a very exciting book. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-56145-805-9

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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