A rescue tale offers gorgeous paintings of animal characters and some awkward narration.

TORC THE CAT SAVES THE BUNNY

From the Torc the Cat Short Stories series , Vol. 1

A courageous cat saves a bunny from a sinister feline in this short stories series opener.

TORC, a long-furred, black-and-white house cat, dreams of a bigger world. But an adventure is happening right outside his door: Greedy Tom is threatening a baby bunny. TORC hurries to the rescue (an action shot of the two cats shows the otherwise realistic-looking hero in a flying kung fu pose). Using untagged dialogue, Nona (TORC the CAT Discovers North America Part 1, 2019) switches from TORC’s narration to Greedy Tom’s, detailing their ongoing rivalry and delivering a melodramatic, clichéd promise: “You foiled me again, but we will meet again!” Once Greedy Tom leaves, TORC provides the bunny with a name, Mr. Lucky, and introduces him to some local rabbits, who adopt him. Because the narration is presented in the first person, but the perspective switches multiple times without the text indicating the speaker, newly independent readers may be baffled by the structure. For lap readers, the fun tale, with grown-ups supplying distinctive voices, presents a clear hero and a dastardly villain, along with an adorable bunny to be saved. (The hero is now the star of two picture-book series: TORC Discoveries and TORC the CAT short stories.) Nona’s realistic, painterly illustrations capture TORC’s expressions and movements perfectly, and interactions with the cute bunny are sure to be appreciated by young animal lovers. An afterword tells the true story behind this yarn.

A rescue tale offers gorgeous paintings of animal characters and some awkward narration.

Pub Date: July 31, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73279-174-9

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Nona Design LLC

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs.

WAYSIDE SCHOOL BENEATH THE CLOUD OF DOOM

Rejoice! 25 years later, Wayside School is still in session, and the children in Mrs. Jewls’ 30th-floor classroom haven’t changed a bit.

The surreal yet oddly educational nature of their misadventures hasn’t either. There are out-and-out rib ticklers, such as a spelling lesson featuring made-up words and a determined class effort to collect 1 million nail clippings. Additionally, mean queen Kathy steps through a mirror that turns her weirdly nice and she discovers that she likes it, a four-way friendship survives a dumpster dive after lost homework, and Mrs. Jewls makes sure that a long-threatened “Ultimate Test” allows every student to show off a special talent. Episodic though the 30 new chapters are, there are continuing elements that bind them—even to previous outings, such as the note to an elusive teacher Calvin has been carrying since Sideways Stories From Wayside School (1978) and finally delivers. Add to that plenty of deadpan dialogue (“Arithmetic makes my brain numb,” complains Dameon. “That’s why they’re called ‘numb-ers,’ ” explains D.J.) and a wild storm from the titular cloud that shuffles the school’s contents “like a deck of cards,” and Sachar once again dishes up a confection as scrambled and delicious as lunch lady Miss Mush’s improvised “Rainbow Stew.” Diversity is primarily conveyed in the illustrations.

Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296538-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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