A promising start to a series for fledgling fantasy readers

READ REVIEW

THE EMBER STONE

From the Last Firehawk series , Vol. 1

The first entry in the Last Firehawk series introduces the whimsical adventures of a brave little owl and his friends.

In the land of Perodia, a dark Shadow encroaches on Valor Wood. The evil vulture Thorn (who, oddly, doesn’t appear in this first book though he’s mentioned in the introduction) controls The Shadow’s dark magic, aiming, for reasons unknown, to destroy the beautiful forest. Enter Tag, a small barn owl with big dreams. He longs to join the Owls of Valor, a group of warriors who protect Valor Wood from threats like Thorn and The Shadow. When Grey, their wise old leader, forbids all animals from entering the treacherous Howling Caves, Tag sees his chance to prove his bravery. Tag and his best pal, Skyla, a mischievous, slingshot-wielding girl squirrel, set off to investigate the caves, where they find a mysterious golden egg. Soon, the egg hatches the eponymous last firehawk, whom Tag names Blaze. Firehawks are magical birds, long thought extinct, who guard the Ember Stone against any who might use it for ill. Unfortunately, the Stone is broken and scattered about Perodia. Tag, Skyla, and Blaze must race to collect the Stone’s pieces before Thorn can get his vile talons on them and destroy the world. The black-and-white sketches depict Disney-esque, wide-eyed animals, while onomatopoeia pops off the page at regular intervals. The story is heavy on dialogue, with no shortage of exclamation points, keeping the energy level high and pages turning.

A promising start to a series for fledgling fantasy readers . (Animal fantasy. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-12230-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Everything that readers have come to love about the Elephant & Piggie books is present—masterful pacing, easy-to-follow,...

MY NEW FRIEND IS SO FUN!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Can Gerald and Piggie’s friendship withstand the friendly overtures of Brian Bat?

When Snake informs Gerald that Piggie is playing with Brian Bat, he is at first complacent. Brian is “nice,” he observes; Snake concurs—after all, he says, “Brian is my Best Friend!” Their mutual reflection that Piggie and Brian “must be having a super-duper fun time!” turns, however, to paranoia when they realize that if their best pals “are having that much fun together, then… / …maybe they do not need us” (that last is printed in teeny-tiny, utterly demoralized type). Gerald and Snake dash/slither to put an end to the fun. Their fears are confirmed when the two new buddies tell them they have “been playing BEST FRIEND GAMES!”—which, it turns out, means making drawings of their respective best friends, Gerald and Snake. Awww. While the buildup to the friends’ confrontation is characteristically funny, there’s a certain feeling of anticlimax to the story’s resolution. How many young children, when playing with a new friend, are likely to spend their time thinking of the friends that they are not playing with? This is unfortunate, as the emotions that Gerald and Snake experience are realistic and profound, deserving of more than a platitudinous, unrealistic response.

Everything that readers have come to love about the Elephant & Piggie books is present—masterful pacing, easy-to-follow, color-coded speech bubbles, hilarious body language—except an emotionally satisfying ending. (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7958-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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