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A FURRY FIASCO

From the Animal Inn series , Vol. 1

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

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. 29, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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CODY HARMON, KING OF PETS

From the Franklin School Friends series

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading.

When Franklin School principal Mr. Boone announces a pet-show fundraiser, white third-grader Cody—whose lack of skill and interest in academics is matched by keen enthusiasm for and knowledge of animals—discovers his time to shine.

As with other books in this series, the children and adults are believable and well-rounded. Even the dialogue is natural—no small feat for a text easily accessible to intermediate readers. Character growth occurs, organically and believably. Students occasionally, humorously, show annoyance with teachers: “He made mad squinty eyes at Mrs. Molina, which fortunately she didn’t see.” Readers will be kept entertained by Cody’s various problems and the eventual solutions. His problems include needing to raise $10 to enter one of his nine pets in the show (he really wants to enter all of them), his troublesome dog Angus—“a dog who ate homework—actually, who ate everything and then threw up afterward”—struggles with homework, and grappling with his best friend’s apparently uncaring behavior toward a squirrel. Serious values and issues are explored with a light touch. The cheery pencil illustrations show the school’s racially diverse population as well as the memorable image of Mr. Boone wearing an elephant costume. A minor oddity: why does a child so immersed in animal facts call his male chicken a rooster but his female chickens chickens?

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30223-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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A WHALE OF THE WILD

A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale.

After a tsunami devastates their habitat in the Salish Sea, a young orca and her brother embark on a remarkable adventure.

Vega’s matriarchal family expects her to become a hunter and wayfinder, with her younger brother, Deneb, protecting and supporting her. Invited to guide her family to their Gathering Place to hunt salmon, Vega’s underwater miscalculations endanger them all, and an embarrassed Vega questions whether she should be a wayfinder. When the baby sister she hoped would become her life companion is stillborn, a distraught Vega carries the baby away to a special resting place, shocking her grieving family. Dispatched to find his missing sister, Deneb locates Vega in the midst of a terrible tsunami. To escape the waters polluted by shattered boats, Vega leads Deneb into unfamiliar open sea. Alone and hungry, the young siblings encounter a spectacular giant whale and travel briefly with shark-hunting orcas. Trusting her instincts and gaining emotional strength from contemplating the vastness of the sky, Vega knows she must lead her brother home and help save her surviving family. In alternating first-person voices, Vega and Deneb tell their harrowing story, engaging young readers while educating them about the marine ecosystem. Realistic black-and-white illustrations enhance the maritime setting.

A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale. (maps, wildlife facts, tribes of the Salish Sea watershed, environmental and geographical information, how to help orcas, author’s note, artist’s note, resources) (Animal fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299592-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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