Beauty will always find a way to rise from violence, but this is a reminder all readers need.



A fictionalized account of a true story, published for the 25th anniversary of the Bosnian War, in which a young boy learns the healing power of music.

Drasko and his father sell flowers in a Sarajevo marketplace. Drasko marvels at the way his father has a kind word (and sometimes even a free flower) for everyone, regardless of race, religion, scowl, or smile. But seemingly overnight, the country is suddenly at war, and Drasko’s father must go play a part. Drasko takes over the flower stand, but now people are harried and rushed. One fateful morning, a whistling sound pierces the air. The bakery in the square is bombed, and 22 innocents are killed. The next day the square is silent, until a lone man in a tuxedo carries a chair and cello to the middle of the rubble and begins to play. He does this for 22 consecutive days, one for each of the lives that were lost. McCutcheon frames this story not around the unnamed cellist but around Drasko and the welling spirit of hope that one tiny, unexpected action can inspire. Critically, he does not identify Drasko’s ethnicity or religion, emphasizing that “Serb and Croat, Muslim and Christian” are all affected. Smudged, faded backdrops highlight key moments in the framed foregrounds, with deep, jewel-toned roses standing out all the more. An included CD allows readers to hear the story narrated by the author, with an accompanying musical performance by Vedran Smailovic, the story’s cellist.

Beauty will always find a way to rise from violence, but this is a reminder all readers need. (historical note, further reading, author’s note, musical score) (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-56145-943-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers.


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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A rousing introduction to the life of a voyageur told from a unique perspective.


Stowing away with French Canadian fur traders in 1792, a loquacious red squirrel embarks on a life-changing adventure.

Each spring, Jean Pierre Petit Le Rouge, a squirrel with wanderlust, watches brave, strong voyageurs depart in canoes from Montreal and return the following autumn. Determined to be a voyageur, Le Rouge hides in a canoe paddled by eight stout voyageurs, part of a brigade of five. Soon his incessant chattering distracts the voyageurs, who become separated from the rest of the brigade, but, after ascending the highest tree, he points the crew back on course. More than once, pesky Le Rouge barely escapes becoming squirrel ragout. He’s just beginning to feel like a real voyageur when they reach the trading post on Lake Superior, where he discovers the voyageurs exchanging their cargo for animal skins to return to Montreal. Heartsick, Le Rouge decides he cannot be a voyageur if it involves trading animal skins, unless he can change things. Le Rouge relates his story with drama and flair, presenting a colorful prism through which to view the daily life of a voyageur. Peppered with historical facts and (italicized) French phrases and names, this exciting, well-documented tale (with a contemporary animal-rights subtext) proves educational and entertaining. Realistic pencil drawings highlight Le Rouge’s memorable journey.

A rousing introduction to the life of a voyageur told from a unique perspective. (map, pronunciation guide, historical and biological notes, recipe, further reading) (Historical fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4247-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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