Both cinematic and pleasingly literary, this will keep readers entranced.

DAPPLED ANNIE AND THE TIGRISH

In this exceptional debut novel for middle graders, Annie’s quest to retrieve a blown-away birds’ nest becomes more magical, dangerous and urgent than she ever anticipated.

This magical adventure is set on the coast of New Zealand, where Annie lives with her mother, little brother and father—a lighthouse keeper whose unexpected absence has just begun to concern his family. The story begins on the cusp of Annie’s 10th birthday, when Annie’s usual visit to her unusual friends—a row of hedges—turns into a grand adventure that has hints of The Neverending Story and A Wrinkle in Time. By the time her birthday has arrived, Annie has learned that being “dappled” is a good thing, and she has proven to herself that she is capable of good decision-making and heroic bravery. Elements of magical realism fold beautifully into the story, as do the moments when Annie is testing a young person’s version of situational ethics. The warm family relationships add to the story’s charm: “On one hand, her brother was loud and sticky and annoying, but on the other hand, he knew interesting things about animals and snuggled up when she read to him.” Nature facts mingle easily with the supernatural, and gentle humor is omnipresent.

Both cinematic and pleasingly literary, this will keep readers entranced. (Fantasy. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-877579-95-0

Page Count: 138

Publisher: Gecko Press

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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Both cozy and inspiring, this eco-fable conveys both grim truths and a defiant call to action.

THE SILVER ARROW

The best birthday present is a magical train full of talking animals—and a new job.

On Kate’s 11th birthday, she’s surprised by the arrival of rich Uncle Herbert. Uncle Herbert bears a gift: a train. Not a toy train, a 102.36-ton steam engine, with cars that come later. When Kate and her brother, Tom, both white, play in the cab of the Silver Arrow, the train starts up, zooming to a platform packed with animals holding tickets. Thus begins Kate and Tom’s hard work: They learn to conduct the train and feed the fire box, instructed by the Silver Arrow, which speaks via printed paper tape. The Silver Arrow is a glorious playground: The library car is chockablock with books while the candy car is brimful of gobstoppers and gummy bears. But amid the excitement of whistle-blowing and train conducting, Kate and Tom learn quiet messages from their animal friends. Some species, like gray squirrels and starlings, are “invaders.” The too-thin polar bear’s train platform has melted, leaving it almost drowned. Their new calling is more than just feeding the coal box—they need to find a new balance in a damaged world. “Feeling guilty doesn’t help anything,” the mamba tells them. Humans have survived so effectively they’ve taken over the world; now, he says, “you just have to take care of it.” (Illustrations not seen.)

Both cozy and inspiring, this eco-fable conveys both grim truths and a defiant call to action. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53953-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is...

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CRENSHAW

Applegate tackles homelessness in her first novel since 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan.

Hunger is a constant for soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson and his family, and the accompanying dizziness may be why his imaginary friend is back. A giant cat named Crenshaw first appeared after Jackson finished first grade, when his parents moved the family into their minivan for several months. Now they’re facing eviction again, and Jackson’s afraid that he won’t be going to school next year with his friend Marisol. When Crenshaw shows up on a surfboard, Jackson, an aspiring scientist who likes facts, wonders whether Crenshaw is real or a figment of his imagination. Jackson’s first-person narrative moves from the present day, when he wishes that his parents understood that he’s old enough to hear the truth about the family’s finances, to the first time they were homeless and back to the present. The structure allows readers access to the slow buildup of Jackson’s panic and his need for a friend and stability in his life. Crenshaw tells Jackson that “Imaginary friends don’t come of their own volition. We are invited. We stay as long as we’re needed.” The cat’s voice, with its adult tone, is the conduit for the novel’s lessons: “You need to tell the truth, my friend….To the person who matters most of all.”

Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is nevertheless a somberly affecting one . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04323-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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