A charmingly clever ode to backyard camping and the fun of spending time in nature, with a good bit of humor rolled into its...

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Oh So Quiet!

Two scared campers encounter a frightening creature in Craig’s (Farmyard Beat, 2012, etc.) picture book with illustrations from Dunkley (Twenty Poems for Boys, 2016, etc.).

As the story opens, an illustration of a sleeping owl accompanies a phrase that repeats throughout the book: “Oh the forest is so quiet, oh so quiet in the night.” Then there’s a strange flapping noise, and two boys in a tent look out into the darkness to figure out what’s lurking there. The illustration for the first noise shows clearly that the flapping sound is just coming from a bat—a typical forest animal with a friendly expression. Soon the refrain repeats against a backdrop of the boys playing cards in their well-lit tent as an old, well-loved teddy bear looks over their shoulders. Once again, a noise startles them; this time, they discover a group of well-dressed, squeaky mice playing on a leaf trampoline. The boys return to their tent, and a third noise startles them back out—the howling of two foxes, which has them just about ready to give up on their outdoor adventure. But then one of the boys sees what he thinks is a squirrel and grins at their silliness. Of course, it’s a skunk that sprays, and the noises all return, sending the boys into a tizzy. Luckily, Daddy’s on hand to keep the boys brave—until, that is, a bear shows up. Daddy and the boys head home to the comfy indoors, but all the noisy forest animals are equally startled, leading to a twist that will surprise both young readers and grown-ups. The limited vocabulary and repeating text make this book a good confidence-builder for newly independent readers, and lap readers will enjoy chiming in with their parents. But the real fun is the storytelling in Dunkley’s illustrations, which offer much detail and humor, whether it’s in the boys' reactions or in the playfulness of the animals. The color palate and adorable animal characters will have young readers poring over the pictures even if they can’t read it on their own. The surprising plot twists—and text that’s uncomplicated without being boring—will make adults glad to return to this bedtime story with their children.

A charmingly clever ode to backyard camping and the fun of spending time in nature, with a good bit of humor rolled into its colorful illustrations.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9967212-0-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlbop Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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Thought-provoking and charming.

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THE WILD ROBOT

A sophisticated robot—with the capacity to use senses of sight, hearing, and smell—is washed to shore on an island, the only robot survivor of a cargo of 500.

When otters play with her protective packaging, the robot is accidently activated. Roz, though without emotions, is intelligent and versatile. She can observe and learn in service of both her survival and her principle function: to help. Brown links these basic functions to the kind of evolution Roz undergoes as she figures out how to stay dry and intact in her wild environment—not easy, with pine cones and poop dropping from above, stormy weather, and a family of cranky bears. She learns to understand and eventually speak the language of the wild creatures (each species with its different “accent”). An accident leaves her the sole protector of a baby goose, and Roz must ask other creatures for help to shelter and feed the gosling. Roz’s growing connection with her environment is sweetly funny, reminiscent of Randall Jarrell’s The Animal Family. At every moment Roz’s actions seem plausible and logical yet surprisingly full of something like feeling. Robot hunters with guns figure into the climax of the story as the outside world intrudes. While the end to Roz’s benign and wild life is startling and violent, Brown leaves Roz and her companions—and readers—with hope.

Thought-provoking and charming. (Science fiction/fantasy. 7-11)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-38199-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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