With its unswerving inclusion of predators, habitat destruction and territorial conflict, this novel could have grown dark;...

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NUTS TO YOU

The gray squirrel Jed’s human acquaintance relates this entertaining story of friendship and adventure, beginning with Jed’s narrow escape from a hawk and then continuing with a series of tail-raising escapades.

An introductory author’s note and endnote frame the story as a tale told by the squirrel to the writer. After the hawk snatches Jed, most of his squirrel community gathers for a memorial service. However, his friends TsTs and Chai, sure Jed is alive, bravely follow a trail of “buzzpaths” and “frozen spiderwebs”—utility lines and towers—to find him. The narrator frequently weaves tidbits of natural science, ecology and philosophy, as well as notes about human behavior, into each short, action-packed chapter. Humorous footnotes and direct addresses add to the fun, as in: “To squirrels, ‘Are you nuts?’ is a combination of ‘Have you lost your mind?’ and ‘You remind me of the most wonderful thing I can think of.’ ” Adult readers will recognize traces of Watership Down, Beatrix Potter and even the work of cartoonist Gary Larson, but who knew until this book that red squirrels speak with cockney accents? (Or, more realistically, that squirrel homes are called “dreys”?) Strong characterizations carry readers through the episodic adventure.

With its unswerving inclusion of predators, habitat destruction and territorial conflict, this novel could have grown dark; instead, it is funny and exuberant. (Fantasy. 7-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-009275-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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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We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face.

THE BAD GUYS

From the Bad Guys series , Vol. 1

Four misunderstood villains endeavor to turn over a new leaf…or a new rap sheet in Blabey's frenzied romp.

As readers open the first page of this early chapter book, Mr. Wolf is right there to greet them, bemoaning his reputation. "Just because I've got BIG POINTY TEETH and RAZOR-SHARP CLAWS and I occasionally like to dress up like an OLD LADY, that doesn't mean… / … I'm a BAD GUY." To prove this very fact, Mr. Wolf enlists three equally slandered friends into the Good Guys Club: Mr. Snake (aka the Chicken Swallower), Mr. Piranha (aka the Butt Biter), and Mr. Shark (aka Jaws). After some convincing from Mr. Wolf, the foursome sets off determined to un-smirch their names (and reluctantly curbing their appetites). Although these predators find that not everyone is ready to be at the receiving end of their helpful efforts, they use all their Bad Guy know-how to manage a few hilarious good deeds. Blabey has hit the proverbial nail on the head, kissed it full on the mouth, and handed it a stick of Acme dynamite. With illustrations that startle in their manic comedy and deadpan direct address and with a narrative that follows four endearingly sardonic characters trying to push past (sometimes successfully) their fear-causing natures, this book instantly joins the classic ranks of Captain Underpants and The Stinky Cheese Man.

We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-91240-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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