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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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From the Bad Guys series , Vol. 1

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

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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From the Franklin School Friends series

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading.

When Franklin School principal Mr. Boone announces a pet-show fundraiser, white third-grader Cody—whose lack of skill and interest in academics is matched by keen enthusiasm for and knowledge of animals—discovers his time to shine.

As with other books in this series, the children and adults are believable and well-rounded. Even the dialogue is natural—no small feat for a text easily accessible to intermediate readers. Character growth occurs, organically and believably. Students occasionally, humorously, show annoyance with teachers: “He made mad squinty eyes at Mrs. Molina, which fortunately she didn’t see.” Readers will be kept entertained by Cody’s various problems and the eventual solutions. His problems include needing to raise $10 to enter one of his nine pets in the show (he really wants to enter all of them), his troublesome dog Angus—“a dog who ate homework—actually, who ate everything and then threw up afterward”—struggles with homework, and grappling with his best friend’s apparently uncaring behavior toward a squirrel. Serious values and issues are explored with a light touch. The cheery pencil illustrations show the school’s racially diverse population as well as the memorable image of Mr. Boone wearing an elephant costume. A minor oddity: why does a child so immersed in animal facts call his male chicken a rooster but his female chickens chickens?

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30223-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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