SPY CAT

As in a previous outing (The Stranger Next Door, 2001), “co-written” with this collaborator—her own pet—Kehret delivers an exciting, suspenseful thriller that satisfies on several levels, thanks in no small part to the inherent literary talent of said feline and the juicy role in which he cast himself in the drama. Pete’s not only a distinguished author, but as a key player he’s a spy of rare talent whose actions and “words” are rendered in italics throughout the narrative to distinguish his activities from those of his human coauthor and fictional foils. A rash of robberies has been perpetrated in a small town in which Pete the Character lives with his family. Benjie Kendrill, younger brother of Pete’s owner, Alex, imagines himself a master spy and sets out to hunt down clues to the crimes. Exciting events ensue, including the inevitable robbery of the Kendrills’ own home and the kidnapping of Benjie after he unwittingly gives himself and his store of knowledge away to the thieves. He’s one smart, brave, and resourceful kid, though; along the way he picks up enough clues to nail these burglars to the wall. Pete is the cat’s meow as he goes above and beyond to save Benjie and to lead the less-clever humans (who don’t understand his “English”) to the solution of the crimes and Benjie’s successful rescue. Readers will keep turning the pages, though Benjie’s harrowing experiences as a captive might frighten very sensitive youngsters. Kehret manages to include in her satisfying story humor, commentary about kindness to animals, and the importance of family and friends. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-525-47046-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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THE TIGER RISING

Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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RED-EYED TREE FROG

Bishop’s spectacular photographs of the tiny red-eyed tree frog defeat an incidental text from Cowley (Singing Down the Rain, 1997, etc.). The frog, only two inches long, is enormous in this title; it appears along with other nocturnal residents of the rain forests of Central America, including the iguana, ant, katydid, caterpillar, and moth. In a final section, Cowley explains how small the frog is and aspects of its life cycle. The main text, however, is an afterthought to dramatic events in the photos, e.g., “But the red-eyed tree frog has been asleep all day. It wakes up hungry. What will it eat? Here is an iguana. Frogs do not eat iguanas.” Accompanying an astonishing photograph of the tree frog leaping away from a boa snake are three lines (“The snake flicks its tongue. It tastes frog in the air. Look out, frog!”) that neither advance nor complement the action. The layout employs pale and deep green pages and typeface, and large jewel-like photographs in which green and red dominate. The combination of such visually sophisticated pages and simplistic captions make this a top-heavy, unsatisfying title. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-87175-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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