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AN ACCIDENTAL HERO

A MOSTLY TRUE WOMBAT STORY

An enchanting tale of hope and wonder in the aftermath of disaster.

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Roettiger’s illustrated children’s book celebrates a wombat who helps animals displaced by wildfires in Australia.

The story starts as a news report in a television studio featuring a backdrop of Sydney’s cityscape and famous Harbour Bridge, doused in yellow smoke. At the news desk, anchors Koala and Emu comment on the wildfires and how they started: “It’s the driest year on record and left us in a drought. We’ve got temperatures hot enough to melt cars from here to Wagga Wagga.” Kangaroo is at the scene for a special report on Wombat, who, after other animals’ homes were destroyed, offered her home underground as a sanctuary for families of echidnas, rabbits, skinks, and wallabies. Palen’s full-page, muted color illustrations feature whimsical watercolor skies and three-dimensional cartoon-style creatures with detailed pencil-stroke fur and expressive faces. As Wombat tells her story, flashback vignettes depict red, raging flames before transitioning to the safety of the protagonist’s burrow and her many animal guests. The book features an educational section on Australian animals, and an author’s note reveals that rescuers really did discover animals sheltering with wombats during the 2019-20 New South Wales bushfires. Roettiger’s prose is animated and lively, with clear, crisp sentences and a quick, even pace that faithfully mimics traditional TV news. As the book goes on, it skillfully achieves a balance of entertainment and education. Readers will enjoy noticing tiny bilbies donning headsets in the TV studio and Kangaroo’s use of an oven mitt to hold the mic on location; such details are sweetly diverting additions to an already engaging story. There’s also something charming about a story such as this being told by the animals themselves.

An enchanting tale of hope and wonder in the aftermath of disaster.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2024

ISBN: 9781632333759

Page Count: 34

Publisher: Eifrig Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2024

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PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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  • New York Times Bestseller


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  • Caldecott Honor

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KNIGHT OWL

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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