An impressive sequel about an aquatic journey that stands on its own while building on the first trip.

Bella Bella

From the Aaron's Wilderness series

London (Foggy Goes to the Library, 2015, etc.) resumes the middle-grade adventures of his boating enthusiasts, this time along the Pacific Northwest coast.

Last year in Desolation Canyon, three Desert Storm veterans brought their teenage children together for a rafting trip down the Green River in Utah. Now 13-year-old Aaron and his dad rejoin Roger (and his 13-year-old daughter, Lisa) and Willie (who brings his 17-year-old son, Cassidy). They embark from the First Nations village of Bella Bella on a 10-day trip around Queen’s Sound, along the coast of British Columbia, in sea kayaks. Aaron is thrilled to see Lisa, on whom he has a crush. He’s less happy encountering Cassidy, since the former juvenile delinquent enjoys roughhousing with him and flirting with Lisa. Over 10 days, the group hopes to explore the coast’s many islands, see wildlife, and learn about First Nations tribes, like the Heiltsuk. It becomes quite a different trip when they hear gunshots one morning from a ship named the Sea Wolf. The Chinese fishermen are gathering geoduck clams, occasionally firing their guns to scare sea lions from the catch. After speaking with Wong, the diver, the group begins paddling away—and hears a thump and a cry within the Sea Wolf’s hull. Later, Aaron overhears the adults telling Cassidy that the ship may be transporting illegal immigrants from China to Vancouver. In this novel, London once again delivers an infectious blend of action, science, and tween romance to readers of all ages. The author’s son, Sean, also returns with gorgeous illustrations accompanying the narrative’s truly magical moments, like when orcas “swam right between our kayaks, their dorsal fins slicing the surface!” Aaron’s growing pains are visible not only regarding his crush on Lisa, but also whenever his father applauds Cassidy (Aaron thinks: “It was like a needle stuck in my skin hearing my dad praise him like that”). After presenting various opinions, the book addresses the central conflict of poor refugees seeking better lives thoroughly and compassionately. Aaron endears himself to audiences, not by being an awkward kid but a blossoming young man.

An impressive sequel about an aquatic journey that stands on its own while building on the first trip.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943328-33-8

Page Count: 180

Publisher: WestWinds Press

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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An A+ for Little E and his creator.

LITTLE EXCAVATOR

A petite excavator named Little E finds his place among a crew of full-sized, heavy-construction equipment working together to build a park.

The anthropomorphic Little E, with bright, friendly eyes and a cheery smile, invites readers into the story on the large-format cover. He is followed by a brown-and-white–spotted dog, which appears throughout the story as a friend to Little E. The construction vehicles arrive at an abandoned lot and begin working together to transform the property into a park. The rollicking, rhyming text names each type of rig and its function, including lots of sound effects and action verbs set in display type integrated into the illustrations: “Pusha-pusha smusha-smusha SMASH SMASH SMASH!” Little E tries to help with each step, but he is either too small or not strong enough for the task at hand. The last step of the park-construction project is the planting of a tree on an island reached by a bridge, but all the big rigs are too large to safely cross the wooden bridge. In a pitch-perfect conclusion, Little E is just the right size for the job. Dewdney, the late author/illustrator of the Llama Llama series, has constructed a solid winner for one of her final books, with an appealing main character, vibrant illustrations with varying perspectives, and an action-packed, rhyming text with sound effects just begging to be read aloud with dramatic effect.

An A+ for Little E and his creator. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-99920-2

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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A joyful celebration.

FAMILIES BELONG

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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