A sympathetic adventure starring a beloved sea mammal.


A young male sea otter leaves his original raft to strike out on his own, encountering environmental dangers created by humans.

The present-tense narrative stays with Kah-Lan’s viewpoint as he ventures away from his mother and other female otters and pups. He is eager for adventure and to find his own companions. Hyphenated words describe much of what Kah-Lan sees and experiences: sea-trees and land-trees; stink-ink for the dark cloud of oil in the water; sea-meat for what he’d be if an orca caught him as well as his own prey; dive-and-dig and roll-and-rinse for otter actions; drift-trees for paddleboards. He recognizes the relative ages—Elders and pups—of “the strange furless ones that walk on their hind legs”; their human speech is shown in italics. Marine creatures are named in ways readers will find familiar: octopus, sea gull, seal, shark, and the orcas that would eat him. Otter habits of storing food in fur pouches, using rocks to pound shells, and meticulously grooming are all introduced. Kah-Lan’s reactions are described in terms of human emotion: he is “giddy with adventure”; he feels “prickles of concern.” When Kah-Lan and another two young male otters swim into an oil spill, he becomes very ill. The otters are taken to a marine mammal rescue center where one otter dies, but Kah-Lan is healed. An extensive author’s note offers facts and context. The mostly declarative sentences have an unvaried rhythm that makes for somewhat ponderous reading, but Autio’s empathy and Kah-Lan’s intriguing perspective help to make up for this. Children who have some familiarity with marine mammal rescue centers may be its most likely readership. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sympathetic adventure starring a beloved sea mammal. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-989724-07-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Crwth Press

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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A nice and timely depiction of an immigrant child experience.


From the Stella Díaz series , Vol. 1

Speaking up is hard when you’re shy, and it can be even harder if you’ve got two languages in your head.

Third-grader Estrella “Stella” Díaz, is a shy, Mexican-American girl who draws pictures and loves fish, and she lives in Chicago with her mother and older brother, Nick. Jenny, Stella’s best friend, isn’t in her class this year, and Stella feels lonely—especially when she sees that Vietnamese-American Jenny is making new friends. When a new student, Stanley Mason, arrives in her class, Stella introduces herself in Spanish to the white former Texan without realizing it and becomes embarrassed. Surely Stanley won’t want to befriend her after that—but he seems to anyway. Stella often confuses the pronunciation between English and Spanish sounds and takes speech classes. As an immigrant with a green card—a “legal alien,” according to her teacher—Stella feels that she doesn’t fully belong to either American culture or Mexican culture, and this is nicely reflected in her not being fully comfortable in either language, an experience familiar to many immigrant and first-generation children. This early-middle-grade book features italicized Spanish words and phrases with direct translations right after. There is a small subplot about bullying from Stella’s classmate, and readers will cheer as they see how, with the help of her friends and family, Stella overcomes her shyness and gives a presentation on Jacques Cousteau. Dominguez’s friendly black-and-white drawings grace most pages.

A nice and timely depiction of an immigrant child experience. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62672-858-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.


From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A long-running series reaches its closing chapters.

Having, as Kline notes in her warm valedictory acknowledgements, taken 30 years to get through second and third grade, Harry Spooger is overdue to move on—but not just into fourth grade, it turns out, as his family is moving to another town as soon as the school year ends. The news leaves his best friend, narrator “Dougo,” devastated…particularly as Harry doesn’t seem all that fussed about it. With series fans in mind, the author takes Harry through a sort of last-day-of-school farewell tour. From his desk he pulls a burned hot dog and other items that featured in past episodes, says goodbye to Song Lee and other classmates, and even (for the first time ever) leads Doug and readers into his house and memento-strewn room for further reminiscing. Of course, Harry isn’t as blasé about the move as he pretends, and eyes aren’t exactly dry when he departs. But hardly is he out of sight before Doug is meeting Mohammad, a new neighbor from Syria who (along with further diversifying a cast that began as mostly white but has become increasingly multiethnic over the years) will also be starting fourth grade at summer’s end, and planning a written account of his “horrible” buddy’s exploits. Finished illustrations not seen.

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47963-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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