SCRATCH

A NOVEL OF MAGIC

Infused with magical realism and some quirky capers but may struggle to find an appropriate audience.

A YA novel about a pet cat with magical powers.

Janson (Mal Practice, 2013) tells the tale of a cat whose instincts and mysterious powers create both havoc and harmony for the family with whom he lives. It all begins with Mildred, who’s surprised to be scratched by Onyx, her otherwise loving cat. The scratch is bad enough to warrant a visit to the hospital, where they are fortuitously able to diagnose her cancer and treat her before the disease can spread. Onyx goes off to live with Mildred’s niece Sally and her grandnieces Bridgette and Renee, who are especially taken with the black cat. Onyx spends a lot of time staring through neighbor Gladys’ window and then, out of the blue, he scratches the poor woman. Once again, a trip to the hospital is in order, and once again, it’s just in the nick of time to save Gladys from cancer. The otherwise friendly cat goes on to scratch unsuspecting folks, along the way solving problems both mental and physical. It’s clear that, more than his hapless owners, the cat seems incredibly aware of what’s going on in the world around him; in his own way, he protects them and their friends and helps make the world a little better. There’s no clear protagonist in this narrative that, despite some uneven pacing, moves along fairly quickly. Described as a YA novel, the episodic story feels more like a middle-grade book, with its 12- and 13-year-old characters often referred to as “young ladies.” However, some strong language—and the fact that about half the book focuses on the lives and interactions of the girls’ parents—means this book doesn’t fit neatly into any genre. At times, 12-year-old Renee acts younger, as when she exclaims, “We had to give them our fingerprints, Dad!” to which her father quips about making sure she gets them back.

Infused with magical realism and some quirky capers but may struggle to find an appropriate audience.

Pub Date: July 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-0578142494

Page Count: 200

Publisher: JM Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2014

Categories:

I LOVE YOU LIKE NO OTTER

The greeting-card art and jokey rhymes work for the baby-shower market but not for the youngest readers.

Animal parents declare their love for their offspring through rhymed puns and sentimental art.

The title sets the scene for what’s to come: The owl asks the owlet as they fly together, “WHOO loves you?”; the kangaroo and joey make each other “very HOPPY”; and the lioness and cub are a “PURRRFECT pair.” Most of the puns are both unimaginative and groanworthy, and they are likely to go over the heads of toddlers, who are not know for their wordplay abilities. The text is set in abcb quatrains split over two double-page spreads. On each spread, one couplet appears on the verso within a lightly decorated border on pastel pages. On the recto, a full-bleed portrait of the animal and baby appears in softly colored and cozy images. Hearts are prominent on every page, floating between the parent and baby as if it is necessary to show the love between each pair. Although these critters are depicted in mistily conceived natural habitats and are unclothed, they are human stand-ins through and through.

The greeting-card art and jokey rhymes work for the baby-shower market but not for the youngest readers. (Board book. 6 mos-2)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-1374-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

Categories:

CARPENTER'S HELPER

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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