Popular in England but never before published in America, the first book of Jarvis’s fantasy trilogy depicts an epic battle between good and evil. The side of good is represented by a society of harmonious, quiet-living mice who are aided and abetted by the more spiritual and mysterious bats above. Together they fight the evil, filthy rats, denizens of the dark and slimy sewers, who are ruled by a demonic overlord named Jupiter. The battle begins when a young mouse named Audrey Brown bravely slips between the bars of the basement grate, the portal between the mouse and rat universe, to search for her father, who has met with misadventure and disappeared into the hellish world beneath. As the stakes rise, Jarvis ratchets up the suspense, neatly juggling several story lines that culminate in a remarkable climactic disclosure. He does a good job, especially through the dialogue, of differentiating the multitude of mice, rat, and bat characters that populate the book. Still, the characters lack that elusive quality of lovability that makes the reader care deeply about their fate. Moreover, although the simultaneously symbolic and literal three-tiered world of bats, mice, and rats is well imagined and beautifully detailed, the narrative is rather dense, causing the book’s story engine to flag at several points. Although not right for every reader, Jarvis has delivered a robust book with a big-canvas plot that is tailor made for lovers of fantasy adventure and animal characters. (cast of characters, afterword) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-58717-021-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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Budding zoologist Daria lives in 2094, 70 years after an environmental crash; the near-extinction of many species of animals puts her in the enviable position of helping replenish Earth by raising creatures in a home zoo. Her family is cooperative (if not always agreeable) and financially able to help her feed and house llamas, hornbills, and binturongs. When her mother announces that Fen, an exchange student from the planet Chela, will be staying with them, Daria wonders if the tall grey alien will fit in. Fen, however, loves animals to an extraordinary degree, and Daria gains a companion and a sympathetic helper, who is oddly taciturn on the subject of Chelan fauna. Gilmore (Jason and the Bard, 1993) charts this story carefully, crafting the awkward nuances that give rise to cultural—or in this case, interplanetary—misunderstandings. Fen is a convincing alien; he’s humanoid, but markedly different from Daria, and his propensity for changing color with his emotions leads to an intriguing scene in which he tries to communicate with a chameleon. Underlying the growing friendship and understanding between Earthlings and Chelans is the slowly revealed horror of what has happened on Chela—an environmental disaster as devastating as a nuclear blast. Gilmore shows that Earth might end, not with a bang, but without a bleat, meow, bark, or chirp. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-57511-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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Marguerite Henry died barely two years ago, after living the life of which most writers dream: She wrote from the time she was young, her parents encouraged her, she published early and often, and her books were honored and loved in her lifetime. Her hobby, she said, was words, but it was also her life and livelihood. Her research skills were honed by working in her local library, doing book repair. Her husband Sidney supported and encouraged her work, and they traveled widely as she carefully researched the horses on Chincoteague and the burros in the Grand Canyon. She worked in great harmony with her usual illustrator, Wesley Dennis, and was writing up until she died. Collins is a bit overwrought in his prose, but Henry comes across as strong and engaging as she must have been in person. Researchers will be delighted to find her Newbery acceptance speech included in its entirety. (b&w photos, bibliography, index) (Biography. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 1999

ISBN: 1-883846-39-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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