A perky marketing ploy—but not a piece of literature.

THE LEGENDS OF GREEMULAX

This “debut” blends satire and allegory as well as TV characters and literature.

The horror of masculinity in the violently gender-segregated world of Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy meets the early feminist-separatist vision of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland (1915). Set that strange fan fiction in a Candyland-scape, and you’ve got the branded television content that is this title. It opens with 12-year-old Penn (black, according to the cover illustration) wondering when he will turn into a Grabagorn, “enormous and strong, with icy blue skin and a set of horns.” Penn lives in a desolate land without women, who apparently were all killed by dragons. But then he discovers three girls caught in a trap and learns that the girls and women haven’t been killed but in fact escaped. Penn and his new friend Kristy (white on the cover) go on an adventure to restore gender equality through mindfulness and communication. Credited ghostwriter Mlynowski tries to deliver a very specific message about feminism while reinforcing all sorts of unhelpful stereotypes. Apparently men left to their own devices are flatulence-obsessed brutes incapable of asking for directions, and women are naturally cooperative, anger-averse nurturers prone to uptalking. A cameo referencing a gay character from the TV series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt implies that gay men are a kind of third sex who prefer the company of women.

A perky marketing ploy—but not a piece of literature. (Fantasy. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-53575-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

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Both cozy and inspiring, this eco-fable conveys both grim truths and a defiant call to action.

THE SILVER ARROW

The best birthday present is a magical train full of talking animals—and a new job.

On Kate’s 11th birthday, she’s surprised by the arrival of rich Uncle Herbert. Uncle Herbert bears a gift: a train. Not a toy train, a 102.36-ton steam engine, with cars that come later. When Kate and her brother, Tom, both white, play in the cab of the Silver Arrow, the train starts up, zooming to a platform packed with animals holding tickets. Thus begins Kate and Tom’s hard work: They learn to conduct the train and feed the fire box, instructed by the Silver Arrow, which speaks via printed paper tape. The Silver Arrow is a glorious playground: The library car is chockablock with books while the candy car is brimful of gobstoppers and gummy bears. But amid the excitement of whistle-blowing and train conducting, Kate and Tom learn quiet messages from their animal friends. Some species, like gray squirrels and starlings, are “invaders.” The too-thin polar bear’s train platform has melted, leaving it almost drowned. Their new calling is more than just feeding the coal box—they need to find a new balance in a damaged world. “Feeling guilty doesn’t help anything,” the mamba tells them. Humans have survived so effectively they’ve taken over the world; now, he says, “you just have to take care of it.” (Illustrations not seen.)

Both cozy and inspiring, this eco-fable conveys both grim truths and a defiant call to action. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53953-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one.

THE WILD ROBOT ESCAPES

Roz, a robot who learned to adapt to life among wild creatures in her first outing, seeks to return to the island she calls home.

Brown’s sequel to The Wild Robot (2016) continues an intriguing premise: What would happen to a robot after challenges in an unexpected environment cause it to evolve in unusual ways? As this book opens, Roz is delivered to a farm where she helps a widower with two young children run a dairy operation that has been in his family for generations. Roz reveals her backstory to the cows, who are supportive of the robot’s determination to return to the island and to her adopted son, the goose Brightbill. The cows, the children, and finally Brightbill himself come to Roz’s aid. The focus on Roz’s escape from human control results in a somewhat solemn and episodic narrative, with an extended journey and chase after Roz leaves the farm. Dr. Molovo, a literal deus ex machina, appears near the end of the story to provide a means of rescue. She is Roz’s designer/creator, and, intrigued by the robot’s adaptation and evolution but cognizant of the threat that those achievements might represent to humans, she assists Roz and Brightbill in their quest. The satisfactory (if inevitable-feeling) conclusion may prompt discussion about individual agency and determination, whether for robots or people.

If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38204-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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