A memorable story of the healing powers of art, nature, and human kindness.


When the ship carrying 5-year-old Allen Williams and his mother founders off Cornwall’s Scilly Isles, lighthouse keeper Benjamin Postlethwaite comes to the rescue.

Allen’s English father has died, and he and his French mother are going to live with his paternal grandparents on Dartmoor. After sheltering in the lighthouse, whose walls are covered in Benjamin’s paintings of boats, Allen is sent away with the gift of a small work painted on a scrap of wood. This secret treasure and memories of the comfort of that night sustain Allen through his mother’s depression, life with unaffectionate grandparents, and banishment to boarding school. His letters to Benjamin are never answered, but at 17, Allen finds his way back. The lighthouse is no longer in use; however, there is an injured puffin—the first on Puffin Island in over a century. Benjamin and Allen nurse him back to health, the question of the unanswered letters is solved, the puffin returns with friends, and the peaceful idyll is interrupted only by World War II. But happier times are in store. Warmhearted, sincere, and nostalgic but never treacly, the gentle text is elevated by color illustrations showing towheaded Allen growing from boy to man along with irresistibly charming puffins and evocative landscapes. The book is dedicated to Allen Williams Lane, the author’s father-in-law and founder of Penguin Books; aftermatter describes the Puffin imprint’s history and impact on children’s literature.

A memorable story of the healing powers of art, nature, and human kindness. (Historical fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-7352-7180-7

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Puffin/Penguin Random House Canada

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face.


From the Bad Guys series , Vol. 1

Four misunderstood villains endeavor to turn over a new leaf…or a new rap sheet in Blabey's frenzied romp.

As readers open the first page of this early chapter book, Mr. Wolf is right there to greet them, bemoaning his reputation. "Just because I've got BIG POINTY TEETH and RAZOR-SHARP CLAWS and I occasionally like to dress up like an OLD LADY, that doesn't mean… / … I'm a BAD GUY." To prove this very fact, Mr. Wolf enlists three equally slandered friends into the Good Guys Club: Mr. Snake (aka the Chicken Swallower), Mr. Piranha (aka the Butt Biter), and Mr. Shark (aka Jaws). After some convincing from Mr. Wolf, the foursome sets off determined to un-smirch their names (and reluctantly curbing their appetites). Although these predators find that not everyone is ready to be at the receiving end of their helpful efforts, they use all their Bad Guy know-how to manage a few hilarious good deeds. Blabey has hit the proverbial nail on the head, kissed it full on the mouth, and handed it a stick of Acme dynamite. With illustrations that startle in their manic comedy and deadpan direct address and with a narrative that follows four endearingly sardonic characters trying to push past (sometimes successfully) their fear-causing natures, this book instantly joins the classic ranks of Captain Underpants and The Stinky Cheese Man.

We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-91240-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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


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. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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