CANARIES AND CRIMINALS

In a winningly oddball sequel to Trouble at Betts Pets (2002), a turtle with a map painted on its back holds the key to a series of mysterious encounters and break-ins at a pet store in a downtrodden neighborhood. Young Aaron Betts takes in a sick turtle left on his doorstep, and thinks little of it until a homing pigeon delivers a semi-literate, but threatening note. Shortly thereafter, Aaron and his mouthy friend Sharon are kidnapped by three ex-cons desperate to reclaim the turtle, as the map on its back leads to a five-million-dollar stash. Aaron has to admit that he had come home from school one day to find that the turtle had passed on, and been given a “burial at sea” by his mother—fortunately, however, being a budding artist, he had drawn a detailed picture of the creature. It’s all handled with a light touch; the crooks are so incompetent that they pose a danger only to themselves. Staffed with likable, quirky characters and driven by issues both serious and not-so, this will leave young readers hoping for more visits to Aaron’s animal-friendly world. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-7636-1928-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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RED-EYED TREE FROG

Bishop’s spectacular photographs of the tiny red-eyed tree frog defeat an incidental text from Cowley (Singing Down the Rain, 1997, etc.). The frog, only two inches long, is enormous in this title; it appears along with other nocturnal residents of the rain forests of Central America, including the iguana, ant, katydid, caterpillar, and moth. In a final section, Cowley explains how small the frog is and aspects of its life cycle. The main text, however, is an afterthought to dramatic events in the photos, e.g., “But the red-eyed tree frog has been asleep all day. It wakes up hungry. What will it eat? Here is an iguana. Frogs do not eat iguanas.” Accompanying an astonishing photograph of the tree frog leaping away from a boa snake are three lines (“The snake flicks its tongue. It tastes frog in the air. Look out, frog!”) that neither advance nor complement the action. The layout employs pale and deep green pages and typeface, and large jewel-like photographs in which green and red dominate. The combination of such visually sophisticated pages and simplistic captions make this a top-heavy, unsatisfying title. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-87175-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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PIGS

Gibbons’s 100th book is devoted to presenting swine in a positive light; she quickly demystifies the stereotypes that cast pigs as smelly, dirty, greedy, and dull. Descended and domesticated from the wild boar, pigs come in hundreds of varieties, colors, shapes, and sizes; in simple language, the book outlines their characteristics, breeds, intelligence, communication, habits, and uses. The author distinguishes the various terms—hog, swine, gilt, sow, boar—while also explaining the act of wallowing in mud. The bulk of the text is characteristically factual, but Gibbons allows herself an opinion or two: “They are cute and lovable with their curly tails, their flat pink snouts and their noisy squeals and grunts.” Pen-and-watercolor drawings show sprightly pigs and a plethora of pink-cheeked children in tranquil farm scenes. (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 1999

ISBN: 0-8234-1441-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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