Great for those kids who’ll happily read about teddies and who enjoy genuinely scary monsters

SPARK AND THE LEAGUE OF URSUS

A sweet tale of a cuddly teddy come to life…or a thrilling adventure about monster fighting?

Spark takes being Loretta’s teddy bear very seriously. At 11, Loretta will soon be too old for her teddy, though she and older brother Matthew, dedicated amateur filmmakers, create movies starring plush toys. Spark knows that being a bear is about more than childish snuggling at night, for Spark is a proud member of the League of Ursus, the society of warrior stuffed toys that since some long-ago era has protected humans from monsters. But even Spark’s bearish demeanor is barely enough to fight off the horrific monster in Loretta’s bedroom, with its massive scorpion tail and horned human head. Could the monster be connected to the disappearance of Loretta’s friend Sofia? Spark and the other neighborhood toys are unlikely heroes, but their fight is hardly adorable or safe. When a bear is nearly disemboweled by the monster, the description of trailing innards consisting of “an enormous bundle of brown thread” somehow increases the violence of the injury. As in Matthew and Loretta’s YouTube movies, a “deadly serious story acted out by ridiculous stuffed animals” is attention-grabbing. The human children are of indeterminate race. Matthew has a genetic condition that has led to mobility issues, and another child has a disability that’s mentioned in passing.

Great for those kids who’ll happily read about teddies and who enjoy genuinely scary monsters . (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68369-166-2

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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A-mew-sing fare for readers who sometimes feel like fraidycats themselves.

SCAREDY CAT

Two shelter cats take on a mysterious puss with weird powers who is terrorizing the feline community.

Hardly have timorous (and aptly named) Poop and her sophisticated buddy, Pasha, been brought home by their new “human beans” for a two-week trial than they are accosted by fiery-eyed Scaredy Cat, utterly trashing the kitchen with a click of his claws and, hissing that he’s in charge of the neighborhood, threatening that if they don’t act like proper cats—disdaining ordinary cat food and any summons (they are not dogs, after all), clawing the furniture instead of the scratching post, and showing like “cattitude”—it’ll be back to the shelter for them. Will Poop and Pasha prove to be fraidycats or flee to the cowed clowder of homeless cats hiding from the bully in the nearby woods? Nope, they are made of sterner stuff and resolutely set out to enlist feline allies in a “quest for life, liberty, and the pursuit of purrs!” Cast into a gazillion very short chapters related by furry narrators Poop and Pasha, who are helpfully depicted in portrait vignettes by Herzog at each chapter’s head, the ensuing adventures test the defiant kitties’ courage (and, in some cases, attention spans) on the way to a spooky but poignant climax set, appropriately enough as it happens, in a pet graveyard.

A-mew-sing fare for readers who sometimes feel like fraidycats themselves. (Adventure. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49443-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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