An engrossing look at a war that sacrificed both horses and people.

Morpurgo adapts his 1982 novel for a younger audience.

Albert and Joey, his red bay, are bonded “like brothers.” Joey responds to Albert’s calls, and together, they work on the family farm in Devon, plowing, sowing, and harvesting. When war breaks out in Europe, Albert’s father, in need of money for the farm, sells Joey to the military. Albert, devastated, vows to one day reunite with Joey. He angrily leaves home and enlists in the army, lying about his age. Ensuing spreads depict Albert training for and entering World War I’s trench warfare. Joey’s fortunes are equally miserable as a cavalry horse. The narrative, heavily anthropomorphizing Joey throughout, tracks him as he and stablemate Topthorn are captured by the Germans. They pull an ambulance cart, spend a calmer summer on a farm, then endure grueling work pulling guns before garnering gentler treatment from German soldier Friedrich. Morpurgo’s sentimental treatment, matched by Disney-esque tableaux intermittently delivered in comics-style panels, nonetheless conveys war as barbaric and treacherous for all—human or animal. After a battle in which both Friedrich and Topthorn are killed, Joey races away, turning up on the wastes of the no man’s land between the warring armies. Albert and an English-speaking German soldier toss a coin for Joey, and Albert, the apparent winner, returns home with Joey at war’s end. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An engrossing look at a war that sacrificed both horses and people. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 7, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4052-9244-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Farshore/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022


From the How To Catch… series

A brisk if bland offering for series fans, but cleverer metafictive romps abound.

The titular cookie runs off the page at a bookstore storytime, pursued by young listeners and literary characters.

Following on 13 previous How To Catch… escapades, Wallace supplies sometimes-tortured doggerel and Elkerton, a set of helter-skelter cartoon scenes. Here the insouciant narrator scampers through aisles, avoiding a series of elaborate snares set by the racially diverse young storytime audience with help from some classic figures: “Alice and her mad-hat friends, / as a gift for my unbirthday, / helped guide me through the walls of shelves— / now I’m bound to find my way.” The literary helpers don’t look like their conventional or Disney counterparts in the illustrations, but all are clearly identified by at least a broad hint or visual cue, like the unnamed “wizard” who swoops in on a broom to knock over a tower labeled “Frogwarts.” Along with playing a bit fast and loose with details (“Perhaps the boy with the magic beans / saved me with his cow…”) the author discards his original’s lip-smacking climax to have the errant snack circling back at last to his book for a comfier sort of happily-ever-after.

A brisk if bland offering for series fans, but cleverer metafictive romps abound. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7282-0935-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021


From the The Kingdom of Wrenly series , Vol. 1

A gentle adventure that sets the stage for future quests.

A lonely prince gains a friend for a quest to find a missing jewel.

Prince Lucas of Wrenly has everything a boy could possibly want—except a friend. His father has forbidden him to play with the village children for reasons of propriety. Adventure-seeking Lucas acquires peasant clothes to masquerade as a commoner and make friends, but he is caught out. His mother, the queen, persuades the king to allow him one friend: Clara, the daughter of her personal dressmaker. When the queen’s prized emerald pendant goes missing, Lucas and Clara set off to find it. They follow the jewel as it changes hands, interviewing each temporary owner. Their adventure cleverly introduces the series’ world and peoples, taking the children to the fairy island of Primlox, the trolls’ home of Burth, the wizard island of Hobsgrove and finally Mermaid’s Cove. By befriending the mermaids, Lucas and Clara finally recover the jewel. In thanks, the king gives Clara a horse of her own so that she may ride with Lucas on their future adventures. The third-person narration is generally unobtrusive, allowing the characters to take center stage. The charming, medieval-flavored illustrations set the fairy-tale scene and take up enough page space that new and reluctant readers won’t be overwhelmed by text.

 A gentle adventure that sets the stage for future quests. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9691-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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