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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As insubstantial as hot air.


A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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