Intriguing as a story of connection to the animal world and, for perceptive readers, filled with solace.

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MAYBE A FOX

A fox kit born with a deep spiritual connection to a rural Vermont legend has a special bond with 11-year-old Jules.

Jules’ sister, Sylvie, just a year older, longs for their mother, who died suddenly. Sylvie is a runner, while Jules’ focus is on the intricacies of rocks and stone. When, in the opening chapters, impulsive Sylvie makes a dash to throw a wishing rock into the Slip, a treacherous place where the river drops under the ground, it is Jules who discovers that Sylvie tripped on a tree root, sliding in March snow to her death. Meanwhile, Jules’ kind friend Sam longs to see a live catamount, a rare eastern cougar—and aches for his war-veteran brother, who mourns Zeke, who didn’t return from Afghanistan. Jules and Sylvie’s speculative question game asks what happens after death: “Maybe you turn into wind. / Maybe you turn into stars.” Magical elements—a legend about brothers who chanced the Slip for a girl’s love; an elusive grotto; spirit animals sent to complete a task unfinished for a human—all confer transcendent dimensions on the story. Appelt and McGhee’s rich, polished narrative invites the reader to experience the world both as Jules and as the fox.

Intriguing as a story of connection to the animal world and, for perceptive readers, filled with solace. (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-8242-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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