An imaginative novel but one that lacks heart.

GALACTIC FUN PARK

From the Galactic Fun Park series

Amusement park–dwelling animals band together to remain in their home in Bell’s middle-grade novel.

Galactic Fun Park is not just a popular amusement complex. It’s also home to an entire society of critters that live off leftover food and garbage that people leave behind. It’s all well and good during the prosperous summer months, but now that the off-season has come, the park’s residents will have to get by on far less. Minister Balmore, the leader of the rats, has seen the population of his group grow, and he’s desperate to recruit new rat warriors to help defend his colony’s preferred territory: the funnel cake shop. The cats, led by Bubba Squeakers, live in Rover’s Landing, where the roller coaster is located, while the cockroaches, whose leader is known by the title Grand Jeffery, inhabit the park’s Moon Man section. There’s more to worry about than mere territorial disputes, however. Exterminators have been spotted in the park, and no creature is safe. The human park manager, Mr. Jenkins, doesn’t see the harm in having a few animals here and there, but the head exterminator, Maurice, is on a personal mission against all pests: “These varmints have overbred, and it’s only a matter of time before they attack the guests,” Maurice tells his less-bloodthirsty assistant, Ron. “Being at the top of the food chain gives us the right over these creatures.” The only thing that makes sense is for the animals to unite, benefiting from the wisdom of such leaders as the raccoons’ Bandit Queen and the squirrels’ ancient Postmaster. But can they set aside old feuds and new power struggles?

Bell’s prose is buoyant over the course of this novel, and she fleshes out the world of the park with rich detail, as in a description of one of its main attractions, the ZenithTarium: “The raccoons who lived in the area revered the planetarium-like theater with its sleek steel walls and rocket-styled seats.” For all the worldbuilding that Bell does over the course of the novel, however, she fails to bring the same level of depth to her characters. Although figures such as Bubba Squeakers, Grand Jeffery, and others represent strange and inventive societies, they lack strong definition as individuals. Even Minister Balmore, who seems, at times, to have a bit more pathos than the other players, feels disappointingly two-dimensional in the end. As a result, it may be difficult for the reader to care very much about them even as they are all threatened with extermination. Overall, Bell fails to sell the stakes of the story, in part, because she sketches out the world with such a gentle touch. Tensions aren’t played up as much as they could be, and a few of the rivalries feel ill-defined. It’s a shame, because the premise of the work is such a strong one, with a bunch of animals challenging humans for amusement park supremacy. Further sequels are planned, so perhaps these weaknesses may be addressed before the next volume appears.

An imaginative novel but one that lacks heart.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-7367909-2-2

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Two Turkey Publishing, LLC

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2021

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Nonthreatening, nonstop mayhem…next stop: Tinseltown! (Graphic adventure. 8-11)

BIG TOP OTTO

From the Elephants Never Forget series , Vol. 2

Otto the peanut-allergic elephant cracks another case.

Still looking for his missing childhood friend, Georgie the chimp, and fresh from helping the big city cops bust a gang of hoodlums, Otto and his sidekick, Crackers the parrot, make their way across the country. This time, they're following circus Punkratz & Pinky, which, if the posters are to be believed, may be where Georgie ended up after being abducted by the man with the wooden nose. Leaving a trail of inadvertent destruction (thanks to Otto's explosive allergic sneezes), they catch up to the circus only to find it's a front for exotic-animal smugglers...and Georgie has moved on. Can the bumbling duo save their new animal friends? The slapstick and goofy situations (Otto dresses as a clown; is mistaken for a football mascot; drives a peanut-shaped car) in Slavin's second full-color graphic adventure will entertain even if several jokes are well above the reading level. It’s also a bit disturbing that animals wearing clothes and speaking are still treated like animals (and hunted for sport) by humans; but the old-timey feel should win fans and please those already established.

Nonthreatening, nonstop mayhem…next stop: Tinseltown! (Graphic adventure. 8-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55453-806-5

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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Adult fans will find neither gore nor sex, but kids will find an evocative original fairy tale with an unexpectedly complex...

THE ICE DRAGON

In a clear attempt to capitalize on the wild popularity of the HBO series Game of Thrones,Martin’s 1980 novella sees a second repackaging with new illustrations by Royo, replacing the 2006 edition illustrated by Yvonne Gilbert.

No alterations have been made to the story, aside from setting it all in blue type. Adara, a motherless “winter child,” loves the ice dragon that visits her every year. A cold, contained little girl, Adara keeps to herself, her grieving father and older siblings just as happy to be too busy for her. She gives all the emotion she withholds from her family to the ice dragon, first touching it at age 4 and riding it at 5, all in secret. As this is the world of Game of Thrones, war is being waged all around, though Adara’s remote northern country remains largely untouched, save for the annual visits by her uncle, who rides a fire dragon for the king. But the war eventually comes to them the year she turns 7, when the enemy’s dragonriders overpower the king’s and begin to burn everything in sight—till Adara and her ice dragon fly. Like the type, Royo’s lush ink-and-wash illustrations are all set in blue, heightening the icy feel. They sprawl across spreads, complementing the generously leaded text and providing ample resting place for readers’ eyes. Despite the war and destruction, this is very much a children’s story, told in a distantly folkloric tone that evokes the stylings of Jane Yolen.

Adult fans will find neither gore nor sex, but kids will find an evocative original fairy tale with an unexpectedly complex protagonist . (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7877-4

Page Count: 130

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2014

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