There are some bright spots, including a satisfying ending that's not too neat, but this is too long, and too clearly...



What's an 8-year-old with a working single mother and an energetic dog to do when her puppy's high energy (the "zoomies") threatens to try their landlady's patience?

The premise is appealing: Third-grader Latasha must give her dog (Ella, named after Ella Fitzgerald) some exercise, but she is too young to go the park by herself. Often, she's cared for by Mrs. Okocho, the landlady, who is from Nigeria and who isn't particularly fond of dogs—especially those that take an unhealthy interest in her garden, as Ella does. Latasha must use some creative problem-solving skills to put up with babysitting from Mrs. Okocho and to care adequately for Ella, eventually resulting in a near-fatal accident for the puppy. Unfortunately, this debut is marred by some awkward writing, including dialogue that seems more adult than third-grader, presumably in order to get across some admittedly worthy lessons: "But telling fibs is wrong and definitely not a mature thing to do. It can be really hard to make the right choice sometimes!" The length and vocabulary seem suited for preteens, making it a mismatch with an 8-year-old protagonist.

There are some bright spots, including a satisfying ending that's not too neat, but this is too long, and too clearly written with a grown-up's sensibility to have as much kid appeal as it could have had. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-9837243-0-8

Page Count: 141

Publisher: Midlandia Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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A waggish tale with a serious (and timely) theme.


An age-old rivalry is reluctantly put aside when two young vacationers are lost in the wilderness.

Anthropomorphic—in body if definitely not behavior—Dogg Scout Oscar and pampered Molly Hissleton stray from their separate camps, meet by chance in a trackless magic forest, and almost immediately recognize that their only chance of survival, distasteful as the notion may be, lies in calling a truce. Patterson and Grabenstein really work the notion here that cooperation is better than prejudice founded on ignorance and habit, interspersing explicit exchanges on the topic while casting the squabbling pair with complementary abilities that come out as they face challenges ranging from finding food to escaping such predators as a mountain lion and a pack of vicious “weaselboars.” By the time they cross a wide river (on a raft steered by “Old Jim,” an otter whose homespun utterances are generally cribbed from Mark Twain—an uneasy reference) back to civilization, the two are BFFs. But can that friendship survive the return, with all the social and familial pressures to resume the old enmity? A climactic cage-match–style confrontation before a worked-up multispecies audience provides the answer. In the illustrations (not seen in finished form) López plops wide-eyed animal heads atop clothed, more or less human forms and adds dialogue balloons for punchlines.

A waggish tale with a serious (and timely) theme. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-41156-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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Long before Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot by watching,” Fabre proved it so.



The rewards of simply taking time to bend down for a closer look are celebrated in this tribute to the great French entomologist.

Seeing as a lad that “every patch of dirt and tangle of weeds buzzed with insects: dazzling beetles, ferocious wasps, sweet-singing crickets, and more,” young Fabre went on to devote a long life to watching common insects rather than just collecting dead specimens as most of his contemporary colleagues did. The distinctive, enduring affection with which he regarded his diminutive subjects regardless of their often savage behavior comes through clearly here, both in Smith’s warm narrative and Ferri’s equally engaging views of the naturalist. He delightedly discovers a shimmering hoplia beetle beneath a leaf, smiles from his sickbed as a handful of hibernating bees revives after his son carries them indoors, and is wonderstruck by an account of how Cerceris wasps paralyze beetles as live food for offspring. (The illustrator has a little fun with viewers by adding a looming insectile shadow as well as close-up views of hovering wasps in this last scene.) Fabre’s many original discoveries and insights won him renown, and though he is largely unknown to nonspecialists today, his nose-to-nose approach to the natural world is well worth commemorating to modern readers.

Long before Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot by watching,” Fabre proved it so. (historical note, timeline, author’s note, annotated source list) (Picture book/biography. 9-11)

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4778-2632-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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