Despite some good adventures, such as the fun of tossing buffalo chips and the thrill of climbing Laurel Hill, the...



A series of illustrated fictional monologues introduces the history of the Oregon Trail.

It’s a good idea, and the beginning is great: Readers meet 13-year-old Carl Hawks, who is helping his father lead a wagon train from Independence, Mo., to Oregon City. Carl sets up the tale as he lists possible hardships along the trail and asks, “WHAT WILL HAPPEN THIS TIME?” In the next spread, Patience Mills bids a poignant farewell to her baby’s grave as her family joins the wagon train. Now the text makes its fatal mistake: Hereafter, there is a dizzying parade of new names and relationships until the end, when Carl reappears to summarize the journey’s calamities and declare the trip “not bad.” The single-page monologues are attractively and appropriately set in Caslon Antique against a faded, faux burlap background. Unfortunately, the generic pen-and-ink-plus-watercolor illustrations are reminiscent of 1960s TV Westerns. The folksy free verse, although more informative than the art, fails in its too-ambitious attempt to delineate 16 different characters.

Despite some good adventures, such as the fun of tossing buffalo chips and the thrill of climbing Laurel Hill, the combination of a one-voice-fits-all twang with too many names and characters is numbing rather than inspiring. (maps, historical notes, author’s note, further reading) (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3775-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2013

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With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after.


From the Dragon Masters series , Vol. 1

Drake has been selected by the king to serve as a Dragon Master, quite a change for an 8-year-old farmer boy.

The dragons are a secret, and the reason King Roland has them is a mystery, but what is clear is that the Dragon Stone has identified Drake as one of the rare few children who have a special connection with dragons and the ability to serve as a trainer. Drake’s dragon is a long brown creature with, at first, no particular talents that Drake can identify. He calls the dragon Worm. It isn’t long before Drake begins to realize he has a very strong connection with Worm and can share what seem to be his dragon’s thoughts. After one of the other Dragon Masters decides to illicitly take the dragons outside, disaster strikes. The cave they are passing through collapses, blocking the passageway, and then Worm’s special talent becomes evident. The first of a new series of early chapter books, this entry is sure to attract fans. Brief chapters, large print, lots of action, attractive illustrations in every spread, including a maplike panorama, an enviable protagonist—who wouldn’t want to be a Dragon Master?—all combine to make an entertaining read.

With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-64624-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale.


After a tsunami devastates their habitat in the Salish Sea, a young orca and her brother embark on a remarkable adventure.

Vega’s matriarchal family expects her to become a hunter and wayfinder, with her younger brother, Deneb, protecting and supporting her. Invited to guide her family to their Gathering Place to hunt salmon, Vega’s underwater miscalculations endanger them all, and an embarrassed Vega questions whether she should be a wayfinder. When the baby sister she hoped would become her life companion is stillborn, a distraught Vega carries the baby away to a special resting place, shocking her grieving family. Dispatched to find his missing sister, Deneb locates Vega in the midst of a terrible tsunami. To escape the waters polluted by shattered boats, Vega leads Deneb into unfamiliar open sea. Alone and hungry, the young siblings encounter a spectacular giant whale and travel briefly with shark-hunting orcas. Trusting her instincts and gaining emotional strength from contemplating the vastness of the sky, Vega knows she must lead her brother home and help save her surviving family. In alternating first-person voices, Vega and Deneb tell their harrowing story, engaging young readers while educating them about the marine ecosystem. Realistic black-and-white illustrations enhance the maritime setting.

A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale. (maps, wildlife facts, tribes of the Salish Sea watershed, environmental and geographical information, how to help orcas, author’s note, artist’s note, resources) (Animal fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299592-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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