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

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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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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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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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