Imaginatively conveys the drudgery—if not the sheer terror—of war to a young audience.

SERGEANT BILLY

THE TRUE STORY OF THE GOAT WHO WENT TO WAR

This is the remarkable true story of an ordinary goat who became the beloved mascot of the Fifth Canadian Battalion during World War I.

In Messier’s dryly humorous tale, Billy adapts well to army life, traveling with the soldiers on training exercises, boarding the troop ship to England with them, and being smuggled onboard the ship to France in an empty orange box. He never complains about the squalid conditions of life in the trenches (he is depicted bleating at a rat) and provides important moral support to frightened or tired soldiers, who mention him affectionately in their letters home. He even saves lives, butting three soldiers into a trench before a shell explodes. Billy becomes such a great protector and defender of his regiment that he is promoted to sergeant and eventually becomes a decorated war hero, surviving the war and ultimately returning to his original owner, depicted as a little girl on a farm in Saskatchewan. Messier’s smooth, well-paced text and Reich’s muted gouache illustrations in warlike tones of olive and brown well convey the poignancy and humor of the story. Such afflictions as trench foot and shell shock are conveyed though not explored in depth, and no characters die. All human characters appear to be white.

Imaginatively conveys the drudgery—if not the sheer terror—of war to a young audience. (author’s note, photographs) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6442-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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A simple but effective look at a keystone species.

IF YOU TAKE AWAY THE OTTER

Sea otters are the key to healthy kelp forests on the Pacific coast of North America.

There have been several recent titles for older readers about the critical role sea otters play in the coastal Pacific ecosystem. This grand, green version presents it to even younger readers and listeners, using a two-level text and vivid illustrations. Biologist Buhrman-Deever opens as if she were telling a fairy tale: “On the Pacific coast of North America, where the ocean meets the shore, there are forests that have no trees.” The treelike forms are kelp, home to numerous creatures. Two spreads show this lush underwater jungle before its king, the sea otter, is introduced. A delicate balance allows this system to flourish, but there was a time that hunting upset this balance. The writer is careful to blame not the Indigenous peoples who had always hunted the area, but “new people.” In smaller print she explains that Russian explorations spurred the development of an international fur trade. Trueman paints the scene, concentrating on an otter family threatened by formidable harpoons from an abstractly rendered person in a small boat, with a sailing ship in the distance. “People do not always understand at first the changes they cause when they take too much.” Sea urchins take over; a page turn reveals a barren landscape. Happily, the story ends well when hunting stops and the otters return…and with them, the kelp forests.

A simple but effective look at a keystone species. (further information, select bibliography, additional resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8934-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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This heartwarming story of a boy and his beloved dog opens the door for further study of our 16th president.

HONEY, THE DOG WHO SAVED ABE LINCOLN

A slice of Abraham Lincoln’s childhood life is explored through a fictionalized anecdote about his dog Honey.

When 7-year-old Abe rescues a golden-brown dog with a broken leg, he takes the pup home to the Lincolns’ cabin in Knob Creek, Kentucky. Honey follows Abe everywhere, including trailing after his owner into a deep cave. When Abe gets stuck between rocks, Honey goes for help and leads a search party back to the trapped boy for a dramatic rescue. The source for this story was a book incorporating the memories of Abe’s boyhood friend, explained in an author’s note. The well-paced text includes invented dialogue attributed to Abe and his parents. Abe’s older sister, Sarah, is not mentioned in the text and is shown in the illustrations as a little girl younger than Abe. All the characters present white save for one black man in the rescue crew. An oversized format and multiple double-page spreads provide plenty of space for cartoon-style illustrations of the Lincoln cabin, the surrounding countryside, and the spooky cave where Abe was trapped. This story focuses on the incident in the cave and Abe’s rescue; a more complete look at Lincoln’s life is included in an appended timeline and the author’s note, both of which include references to Lincoln’s kindness to animals and to other pets he owned.

This heartwarming story of a boy and his beloved dog opens the door for further study of our 16th president. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-269900-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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