Dance, drama, and a star turn make this a page-turning tale.

THE NUTCRACKER MICE

Ballet is beautiful for a mouse ballerina.

Irina, a white, Russian girl whose parents work backstage at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, loves ballet. Esmeralda, a Russian mouse who lives in the Mariinsky, also loves ballet. It’s 1892, and The Nutcracker: A Ballet in Two Acts with music by Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky is set to premier. The mice also have a company, the Russian Mouse Ballet Company, and are planning their own production to the same music. But Esmeralda faces a terrible conflict. Can a mouse troupe dance to a scenario that features evil mice who are defeated in battle? Kladstrup has crafted a dual tale filled with charm, humor, conflict, and danger. The humans (most of them, at least) are out to exterminate the mice; Tchaikovsky is especially rodentophobic, while Irina is especially sympathetic and helpful. Esmeralda emerges as the perfect main character. She faces trials as a dancer—managing her tail properly is difficult. She displays courage and know-how in obtaining costumes from Irina’s doll, crafts an appropriate mouse version of the story, and best of all, she finds her dance muse in the gloriously enchanting score. The synopses for both ballets are included. Helquist’s full-page panels in shades of black are delightfully expressive and are filled with charming details.

Dance, drama, and a star turn make this a page-turning tale. (author’s note) (Animal fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8519-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world.

THEY THREW US AWAY

From the Teddies Saga series , Vol. 1

The journey to find a child becomes an existential quest for an abandoned teddy bear.

Buddy is not just any stuffed bear, but a blue Furrington Teddy with a Real Silk Heart. So why did he wake up in a landfill with other Furringtons of varying hues? A more pressing matter, however, is escaping Trashland and its murderous gulls and bulldozers. Yearning to connect with a child and achieve a state of peaceful Forever Sleep, Buddy and his new friends of differing temperaments and gifts set out on a harrowing journey through the city to find children who will want them. As they encounter other Furringtons in disarray, this opener in The Teddies Saga series becomes a mystery about why these teddies are being harmed in the first place. While the visceral narrative follows the teddy troupe’s adventurous challenges and survival, its focus is on Buddy’s inner struggles as he ponders identity, leadership, and other existential dilemmas. Kraus doesn’t shy away from anger, fear, death, and other dark subjects; instead they become opportunities for growth in difficult environments. Cai’s intense, slightly nightmarish grayscale illustrations add immeasurably to the text. Reminiscent of Watership Down in theme and structure, the novel’s intermittent teddy creation stories also become parables of a moral code and extend the epic story arc. A cliffhanger ending sets the scene for the next installment.

Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-22440-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Perfect for eager readers of animal adventures.

CREATURES OF THE FLOOD

From the Bamboo Kingdom series , Vol. 1

The first in a new series by the pseudonymous authorial collaboration, this one focusing on pandas.

In the midst of a devastating flood, a giant panda reaches the security of a cave where she can safely birth her cubs. In an initially confusing timeline, the tale then takes up much later with Leaf, who is maturing among a group of pandas in a barren countryside. On the other side of an uncrossable river, Rain, another intrepid panda, is growing up in the Southern Forest, where more previously solitary pandas have gathered. When Sunset Deepwood, the prophesying Dragon Speaker, returns—seemingly from the dead—Rain is immediately suspicious of his behavior, especially concerning his secret meetings with antagonistic monkeys. The storyline switches between these two females and Ghost, a clumsy all-white male who has grown up with his presumed littermates under the tender care of their snow leopard mother, Winter. Although he knows he differs from the other cubs in significant ways, Ghost has no idea he’s actually a panda. After a large earthquake, Leaf comes under the care of Shadowhunter, a tiger who’s sworn to reunite triplet pandas who are destined together to become the next Dragon Speakers, setting up another entry in the series. The animals are well depicted, with clear personalities, and the challenges they face are daunting, nicely sustaining the suspense. Illustrations not seen.

Perfect for eager readers of animal adventures. (map) (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-302192-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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