The didactic plot is further hampered by exposition and too many characters to keep straight.

A FURRY FIASCO

From the Animal Inn series , Vol. 1

A misunderstanding at Animal Inn leads to anxiety.

The Tyler family (Mom, Dad, Jake, Ethan, and Cassie—who all lack racial markers in the text but have light skin in the black-and-white illustrations) once lived in a city apartment but now live out in the country. There they run Animal Inn (a combined pet hotel, school, and spa that offers further animal services, such as puppy birthday parties and reading activities) with their family pets as permanent residents (narrator Leopold the macaw, terrier Dash, chocolate Lab Coco, cats Shadow and Whiskers, and gerbils Fuzzy and Furry). As the story opens, the animals first hear that a wizard is coming but find greater terror in the clarification that the wizard won’t be the guest—the wizard’s dragon will be. The animals’ anxiety levels increase as they deal with the preparations of the inn for the new guest, even though at the halfway point one of the many guests (a miniature poodle, very French) relates an anecdote about unnecessary fear in the face of misinformation and misunderstandings. Finally, the dragon is revealed to be a rescued Komodo dragon and “wizard” the result of young Cassie’s difficulties pronouncing the word “lizard,” and soon all are friends. Here’s hoping the next books will go lighter on the exposition, characters, and heavy-handedness.

The didactic plot is further hampered by exposition and too many characters to keep straight. (preview of next book) (Fiction/animal fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6224-2

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS

This is rather a silly story, and I don't believe children will think it particularly funny. A paper hanger and painter finds time on his hands in winter, and spends it in reading of arctic exploration. It is all given reality when he receives a present of a penguin, which makes its nest in the refrigerator on cubes of ice, mates with a lonely penguin from the zoo, and produces a family of penguins which help set the Poppers on their feet.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1938

ISBN: 978-0-316-05843-8

Page Count: 139

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1938

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