An outstanding exploration of childhood trauma from a masterful author.

SUNSHINE

When Ben was just 3, his mother abandoned him and his father.

Now the boy is to spend a week with her on an extremely isolated island in a lake on the Minnesota-Canada border. Fortunately, he has his golden-red dog, Sunshine, to accompany him. His pragmatic dad says he’s far too old for an imaginary pet, but Sunshine is what keeps this “what-if kid,” as his father calls him, safe. She pushes his fears down as Ben and his mother paddle across one lake and then another to reach her cabin. Although Sunshine attacks a bear and her cub that his mom takes them to see, they come through the danger unscathed. It’s only after he takes the canoe and nearly fails to paddle back against a driving wind that he recognizes Sunshine’s shortcomings. Without the dog’s support, he finally confronts his mother about what he believes he did to drive her away when he was a toddler. Then he learns the crushing truth: that, after the damage of her own abusive upbringing, she feared she would hurt him. A terrifying fire on the island forces him to courageously help his mother and eventually come to grips with both her flaws and his. Richly character driven, immersive, evocative, and painfully sad, this effort can’t fail to move young readers. Ben and his family seem to be White.

An outstanding exploration of childhood trauma from a masterful author. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1411-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one.

THE WILD ROBOT ESCAPES

Roz, a robot who learned to adapt to life among wild creatures in her first outing, seeks to return to the island she calls home.

Brown’s sequel to The Wild Robot (2016) continues an intriguing premise: What would happen to a robot after challenges in an unexpected environment cause it to evolve in unusual ways? As this book opens, Roz is delivered to a farm where she helps a widower with two young children run a dairy operation that has been in his family for generations. Roz reveals her backstory to the cows, who are supportive of the robot’s determination to return to the island and to her adopted son, the goose Brightbill. The cows, the children, and finally Brightbill himself come to Roz’s aid. The focus on Roz’s escape from human control results in a somewhat solemn and episodic narrative, with an extended journey and chase after Roz leaves the farm. Dr. Molovo, a literal deus ex machina, appears near the end of the story to provide a means of rescue. She is Roz’s designer/creator, and, intrigued by the robot’s adaptation and evolution but cognizant of the threat that those achievements might represent to humans, she assists Roz and Brightbill in their quest. The satisfactory (if inevitable-feeling) conclusion may prompt discussion about individual agency and determination, whether for robots or people.

If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38204-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale.

A WHALE OF THE WILD

After a tsunami devastates their habitat in the Salish Sea, a young orca and her brother embark on a remarkable adventure.

Vega’s matriarchal family expects her to become a hunter and wayfinder, with her younger brother, Deneb, protecting and supporting her. Invited to guide her family to their Gathering Place to hunt salmon, Vega’s underwater miscalculations endanger them all, and an embarrassed Vega questions whether she should be a wayfinder. When the baby sister she hoped would become her life companion is stillborn, a distraught Vega carries the baby away to a special resting place, shocking her grieving family. Dispatched to find his missing sister, Deneb locates Vega in the midst of a terrible tsunami. To escape the waters polluted by shattered boats, Vega leads Deneb into unfamiliar open sea. Alone and hungry, the young siblings encounter a spectacular giant whale and travel briefly with shark-hunting orcas. Trusting her instincts and gaining emotional strength from contemplating the vastness of the sky, Vega knows she must lead her brother home and help save her surviving family. In alternating first-person voices, Vega and Deneb tell their harrowing story, engaging young readers while educating them about the marine ecosystem. Realistic black-and-white illustrations enhance the maritime setting.

A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale. (maps, wildlife facts, tribes of the Salish Sea watershed, environmental and geographical information, how to help orcas, author’s note, artist’s note, resources) (Animal fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299592-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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