Funny, warmhearted, and involving, with a timely ecological message.


A sixth grade boy and some friends team up to try to foil a poacher/plant thief in this debut middle-grade novel.

Oxbow Island, off the coast of Portland, Maine, is a special place for Berend “Bear” Houtman, 11. He spends summers there with his grandmother Sally Parker, and he loves its natural beauty. But now sixth grade has begun, and Bear is visiting after being suspended from school for acting out in response to bullying and being betrayed by his former best friend. Bear feels disgraced, but kindness from others—plus the island’s magic—soon improves his mood. While exploring in the woods, Bear is dismayed to find that someone has been uprooting, stealing, and destroying delicate orchids—and worse, setting illegal traps. Honey the Wonder Dog, Sally’s pet, is injured by one such trap, and Bear finds a dead beaver in another. It seems the area’s beaver ponds are being targeted, perhaps on behalf of rich summer residents. Bear forms a bold plan with old friends and new to scout out beaver ponds, catch the trapper, and protect his beloved island. In her novel, Chalmers creates a vivid sense of Oxbow Island and its close-knit, year-round residents. They’re a quirky bunch, coming in a wide range of ages, races, and backgrounds: a 90-year-old woman; a middle-aged black professor; a Hispanic wheelchair user and his daughter; a taxi driver; and a newspaper deliveryman. While the rescue plot is compelling and cheerworthy, it has wider effects. Bear’s investigation doesn’t just benefit plants and animals, it also brings the island community closer. In addition, Bear comes to a new, more mature understanding about the conflict with his ex-friend, with some well-earned reflections on growing up. The chapter head illustrations by Hogan are charming additions.

Funny, warmhearted, and involving, with a timely ecological message.

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63381-211-6

Page Count: 197

Publisher: Maine Authors Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Dizzyingly silly.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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