by Robin Mason ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 1, 2016
A morally-sound hero who earns sympathy and cheers as a champion of the wildlife.
LONE WOLF: BOOK TWO OF THE OLDENGLEN CHRONICLES A twelve-year-old boy’s ability to communicate with animals may come in handy when revenge-minded bullies invade his family’s land in Mason’s (Oldenglen, 2015) middle-grade fantasy. Although initially reluctant to leave his England home, Jackson Wolfe has grown to love Oregon. The Oldenglen estate where he lives is a magical place where the boy can understand the forest’s inhabitants. But while the woodfolk are pals, Jackson’s had less luck making friends at school. Bully Noah and his three cronies who form The Pack target Jackson after he sticks up for nerdy Daniel. When Noah instigates a tussle outside a library, Jackson momentarily unleashes the “wolf within,”  a transformation he thought would materialize only in Oldenglen. Jax the Wolf has amped speed and strength, with golden eyes the sole physical change — but it’s his eyes that Noah may have witnessed. Now designating Jackson a freak, The Pack creeps into Oldenglen, where Noah boasts of knowing the area. Fortunately, Jackson has help, from the woodfolk who immediately spot the camping bullies to San Franciscan Sarah, who’s visiting the boy she’d befriended over the summer. With a hunting dog and gun, Noah poses a threat to Jackson and his woodsy companions, especially if he tells potentially-armed adults he’s spotted wolves or coyotes. So Jackson, Sarah, and the woodfolk make a plan to protect Oldenglen. This laudable tale is more exciting than the series’ first, which Mason co-wrote with his father. Handling exposition thoroughly but efficiently, the author dives right into the story to establish the new villains. Noah, et. al., even if mere eighth-graders, are genuinely scary; he and older brother Nate, in a discernible black truck, follow Jackson’s bus all the way home. Despite further distress (Jackson’s missing porcupine buddy Squiffle) and the occasional menacing animal (a bull elk literally looking for a fight), the narrative’s predominantly jaunty. The good guys, for one, are surprisingly skilled at psychological warfare, opting to disturb the bullies’ sleep and campsite, which results in hilarious directives: “Send in the moles.”  Jackson battles relatable issues, too, including loneliness, feeling like both wolf and human with no real pack of his own.A morally-sound hero who earns sympathy and cheers as a champion of the wildlife.
Pub Date: April 1, 2016
Page Count: 348
Publisher: Tricklewood Press
Review Posted Online: June 11, 2016
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In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.
Awards & Accolades
A fifth-grade New Orleans girl discovers a mysterious chrysalis containing an unexpected creature in this middle-grade novel.
Jacquelyn Marie Johnson, called Jackie, is a 10-year-old African-American girl, the second oldest and the only girl of six siblings. She’s responsible, smart, and enjoys being in charge; she likes “paper dolls and long division and imagining things she had never seen.” Normally, Jackie has no trouble obeying her strict but loving parents. But when her potted snapdragon acquires a peculiar egg or maybe a chrysalis (she dubs it a chrysalegg), Jackie’s strong desire to protect it runs up against her mother’s rule against plants in the house. Jackie doesn’t exactly mean to lie, but she tells her mother she needs to keep the snapdragon in her room for a science project and gets permission. Jackie draws the chrysalegg daily, waiting for something to happen as it gets larger. When the amazing creature inside breaks free, Jackie is more determined than ever to protect it, but this leads her further into secrets and lies. The results when her parents find out are painful, and resolving the problem will take courage, honesty, and trust. Dumas (Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest: Episode 5, 2017, etc.) presents a very likable character in Jackie. At 10, she’s young enough to enjoy playing with paper dolls but has a maturity that even older kids can lack. She’s resourceful, as when she wants to measure a red spot on the chrysalegg; lacking calipers, she fashions one from her hairpin. Jackie’s inward struggle about what to obey—her dearest wishes or the parents she loves—is one many readers will understand. The book complicates this question by making Jackie’s parents, especially her mother, strict (as one might expect to keep order in a large family) but undeniably loving and protective as well—it’s not just a question of outwitting clueless adults. Jackie’s feelings about the creature (tender and responsible but also more than a little obsessive) are similarly shaded rather than black-and-white. The ending suggests that an intriguing sequel is to come.In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.
Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2017
Page Count: 212
Publisher: Plum Street Press
Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018
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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.
In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.
In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.
Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004
Page Count: 152
Publisher: Townsend Press
Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013
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