Fans of trickster stories will appreciate this clever rendition featuring American desert animals.

READ REVIEW

DON’T THROW ME IN THE CHOLLA PATCH!

A WOODRAT AND COYOTE ADVENTURE

A familiar folktale gets a new Southwestern setting in this picture book.

Woodrat’s larder is almost empty, and even though hunting for his family under the full moon in the desert is dangerous, he decides to go out for supplies. It’s not long before Coyote catches him and traps him beneath a paw. Mixing techniques from the Brer Rabbit stories and "The Billy Goats Gruff," Woodrat baits Coyote with images of his “sweet wife, bless her roly-poly self, and my chubby little children, all ten of them.” Then he begs for mercy, asking Coyote not to throw him into the prickly, dangerous cholla patch. Readers familiar with these tales will be quick to recognize that the cholla patch is exactly where Woodrat and his family will be safe, but youngsters encountering this type of story for the first time will enjoy Severson’s adroit use of suspense until Coyote gets his just deserts. Italian fine artist Orazzini’s paintings deftly capture the nighttime hues of the desert, although the clothing choices (bandannas around Woodrat’s head and Coyote’s neck) feel superfluous. The cartoonish animals have an abundance of personality, and Coyote is wicked but never overly scary for young lap readers. Severson, who is also a novelist and performance storyteller, uses fairly dense text with some challenging vocabulary for newly independent readers (“precious,” “shriveled”). But the tale’s smooth flow will beautifully aid adults reading the book aloud.

Fans of trickster stories will appreciate this clever rendition featuring American desert animals.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947408-06-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: The Small-Tooth Dog Publishing Group

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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An almost-orphan and a rescue dog share lots of heart in a winsome coming-of-age story.

A HOME FOR GODDESSES AND DOGS

After her mother succumbs to heart disease, 13-year-old Lydia goes to live with her mother’s older sister, Aunt Brat, and her wife, Eileen, in their small Connecticut town.

Almost immediately the loving couple adopts a large rescue dog that becomes mostly Lydia’s responsibility. The unfortunate animal isn’t even housebroken, and Lydia’s most decidedly not a dog person, so caring for Guffer is challenging. So is trying to be cordial—but not too friendly—with her 12 eighth grade classmates. Previously home-schooled, Lydia’s not quite ready for the friend thing. Secrets, like who could have been responsible for maiming two baby goats or why Brat is secretly caring for them at a neighbor’s farm, complicate life. Background plotlines (an angry neighbor who hates Guffer, Lydia’s absent father, and the cause of Guffer’s anxieties) all gradually evolve. Similarly, Lydia slowly learns to cope with her grief, sometimes aided by spending time with “the goddesses”—artistic collages of strong women that she and her mother crafted. Gentle, fully fleshed characters (most seemingly white) are lovingly drawn in this long tale of healing, but the pacing is sometimes frustratingly slow. Although she’s clearly intelligent, Lydia’s first-person narrative often seems more like the voice of an adult than a young teen. In spite of these minor flaws, her poignant tale is engaging and uplifting.

An almost-orphan and a rescue dog share lots of heart in a winsome coming-of-age story. (Fiction.10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-279678-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Creative, comedic, and carrot-loads of fun.

A IS FOR ANOTHER RABBIT

An obsessed narrator creates an alphabet book overrun with rabbits, much to the chagrin of an owl who wants to create a “proper, respectable” alphabet book.

The picture book begins, “A is for A rabbit,” an illustration of a large brown rabbit taking up most of the recto. The owl protagonist—presumably the co-creator of the book—points out that “rabbit” begins with “R.” “Yes, but “a rabbit” starts with A,” says the narrator, before moving on to “B is for bunny,” which, as the owl points out, is just another name for rabbit. Despite the owl’s mounting frustration, the narrator genially narrates several rabbits into existence on almost every single page, rendered with such variety that readers will find their proliferation endlessly amusing. The letter D, for instance, introduces readers to “delightful, dynamic, daredevil RABBITS!” (a herd of biker rabbits), and although the narrator says “E is for Elephant” (which momentarily satisfies the owl), the image depicts several rabbits poorly disguised as an elephant. Much to the owl’s chagrin and, ultimately, exhaustion, the narrator grows more and more creative in their presentation of their favorite animal as the picture book proceeds down a rabbit hole of…well, rabbits! Batsel’s debut picture book for readers already familiar with the English alphabet is funny and highly entertaining. The whimsical narrative and the colorful images make this an excellent elementary-age read-aloud.

Creative, comedic, and carrot-loads of fun. (Picture book. 4-8)/p>)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5415-2950-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A sure draw for the Kung-Fu Panda crowd, high on body count but low on gory details, it doesn't take itself too seriously...

THE BATTLE OF RIPTIDE

From the Shark Wars series , Vol. 2

Toothy rivals introduced in the opener, Shark Wars (2011), unite in the sequel to battle an army of shark invaders from the far end of the Big Blue.

Having learned that he’s not fat (or “big-cartilaged,” as he prefers to put it) but a supersized prehistoric Megalodon, young Gray is propelled into playing a leading role in repelling a disciplined force of shark troops from Indi, led by King Finnivus, a spoiled and vicious brat with visions of world conquest. Fortunately, Gray is being tutored in martial “Shar-kata” by Takiza, an ancient and bad-tempered betta (Siamese fighting fish). He also finds common purpose with other “shivers” (the basic shark communal unit—though more open-minded shivers admit other species too) and discovers unexpected allies who arrive (thanks to Takiza’s ability to span entire oceans with magical speed) in the nick of time to turn the tide of the climactic battle. When Gray cries, or pants with exhaustion, the overall anthropomorphic conceit wears thin, but Altbacker expends some effort concocting his undersea setting and fills out the finny cast with familiar martial-arts–style character types.

A sure draw for the Kung-Fu Panda crowd, high on body count but low on gory details, it doesn't take itself too seriously and is fully sequel-enabled. (Animal fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59514-377-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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