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A warm, engaging tale of the bond between a resourceful man and his service animal.

Johnston’s debut recounts the partnership of English-born railway signalman Jim Wide and his service baboon, Jack, in 1880s South Africa.

After an accident necessitates the amputation of his legs, Jim can no longer inspect the trains at Uitenhage Station. Fortunately, his request for a new task is granted, and he becomes a signalman, switching trains onto different tracks by pulling levers. But getting around is difficult, even after Jim carves himself prostheses and builds a handcart. Jim finds a helping hand in Jack, a chacma baboon, training the animal to push the cart, operate switches, and more. Soon, the hardworking primate becomes not only Jim’s assistant, but his “best friend.” But when railway authorities discover a monkey at the switch, Jack must prove his reliability in order for Jim to keep his job. Jack’s antics are sometimes charmingly (and somewhat disorientingly) humanlike; affection radiates throughout the straightforward text and Samaniego’s close, expressive illustrations as the pair share an exuberant cart ride or Jack chatters at a smiling Jim, a hand on Jim’s shoulder. Against the eloquent illustrations, the occasional speech-balloon dialogue feels redundant. Most humans, including Jim, present white; South Africa’s troubled racial history goes unmentioned. An author’s note provides an epilogue, and thought-provoking discussion questions touch on animal rights. Backmatter includes archival photos, a glossary, internet resources, related reading, a brief history of service animals, and a bibliography.

A warm, engaging tale of the bond between a resourceful man and his service animal. (Informational picture book. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68446-088-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Capstone Editions

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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With young readers diagnosed with anxiety in ever increasing numbers, this book offers a necessary mirror to many.

Young Raina is 9 when she throws up for the first time that she remembers, due to a stomach bug. Even a year later, when she is in fifth grade, she fears getting sick.

Raina begins having regular stomachaches that keep her home from school. She worries about sharing food with her friends and eating certain kinds of foods, afraid of getting sick or food poisoning. Raina’s mother enrolls her in therapy. At first Raina isn’t sure about seeing a therapist, but over time she develops healthy coping mechanisms to deal with her stress and anxiety. Her therapist helps her learn to ground herself and relax, and in turn she teaches her classmates for a school project. Amping up the green, wavy lines to evoke Raina’s nausea, Telgemeier brilliantly produces extremely accurate visual representations of stress and anxiety. Thought bubbles surround Raina in some panels, crowding her with anxious “what if”s, while in others her negative self-talk appears to be literally crushing her. Even as she copes with anxiety disorder and what is eventually diagnosed as mild irritable bowel syndrome, she experiences the typical stresses of school life, going from cheer to panic in the blink of an eye. Raina is white, and her classmates are diverse; one best friend is Korean American.

With young readers diagnosed with anxiety in ever increasing numbers, this book offers a necessary mirror to many. (Graphic memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-545-85251-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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1001 BEES

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

This book is buzzing with trivia.

Follow a swarm of bees as they leave a beekeeper’s apiary in search of a new home. As the scout bees traverse the fields, readers are provided with a potpourri of facts and statements about bees. The information is scattered—much like the scout bees—and as a result, both the nominal plot and informational content are tissue-thin. There are some interesting facts throughout the book, but many pieces of trivia are too, well trivial, to prove useful. For example, as the bees travel, readers learn that “onion flowers are round and fluffy” and “fennel is a plant that is used in cooking.” Other facts are oversimplified and as a result are not accurate. For example, monofloral honey is defined as “made by bees who visit just one kind of flower” with no acknowledgment of the fact that bees may range widely, and swarm activity is described as a springtime event, when it can also occur in summer and early fall. The information in the book, such as species identification and measurement units, is directed toward British readers. The flat, thin-lined artwork does little to enhance the story, but an “I spy” game challenging readers to find a specific bee throughout is amusing.

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-500-65265-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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