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CATALYST

Magical animals become a kooky, sweet metaphor for growing up.

She’s just the adorablest, teeniest of stray kittens—suddenly grown as big as a hippopotamus.

Zoe’s not supposed to bring stray animals home anymore, ever since the skunk incident. Who can resist the world’s smallest kitten, though? And it’s Zoe’s 12th birthday, and she’s been unhappy at how tall she’s grown, and she’s been crushed over her older brother’s impending departure for college; eventually, her concerned parents cave. But after Pipsqueak’s been with Zoe for just a couple of days, she’s suddenly a full-grown cat. Then she’s the size of a dog, then a lion, and after less than a week, a hippo. If the government finds out about the enormous talking feline (for Pipsqueak can speak, now, and read as well), will they take her away to Area 51? Zoe and her best friend, Harrison, begin a quest: They’ll take Pipsqueak to Zoe’s wacky New Age aunt, who’ll maybe have a solution for them. Along the way their fellowship swells with magical animals, an offbeat crew composed of a six-tailed green dog and a multicolored flying mouse. The far-fetched setup and ensuing adventure convey themes that will resonate with the audience; Pipsqueak’s as unhappy with her out-of-control body and circumstances as Zoe, and the quest may lead them to new comfort with themselves. Zoe is depicted as white on the cover, and Harrison is of South Asian descent.

Magical animals become a kooky, sweet metaphor for growing up. (Fantasy. 8-11)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-06502-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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A WHALE OF THE WILD

A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale.

After a tsunami devastates their habitat in the Salish Sea, a young orca and her brother embark on a remarkable adventure.

Vega’s matriarchal family expects her to become a hunter and wayfinder, with her younger brother, Deneb, protecting and supporting her. Invited to guide her family to their Gathering Place to hunt salmon, Vega’s underwater miscalculations endanger them all, and an embarrassed Vega questions whether she should be a wayfinder. When the baby sister she hoped would become her life companion is stillborn, a distraught Vega carries the baby away to a special resting place, shocking her grieving family. Dispatched to find his missing sister, Deneb locates Vega in the midst of a terrible tsunami. To escape the waters polluted by shattered boats, Vega leads Deneb into unfamiliar open sea. Alone and hungry, the young siblings encounter a spectacular giant whale and travel briefly with shark-hunting orcas. Trusting her instincts and gaining emotional strength from contemplating the vastness of the sky, Vega knows she must lead her brother home and help save her surviving family. In alternating first-person voices, Vega and Deneb tell their harrowing story, engaging young readers while educating them about the marine ecosystem. Realistic black-and-white illustrations enhance the maritime setting.

A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale. (maps, wildlife facts, tribes of the Salish Sea watershed, environmental and geographical information, how to help orcas, author’s note, artist’s note, resources) (Animal fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299592-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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THE FIRST CAT IN SPACE ATE PIZZA

From the First Cat in Space series , Vol. 1

Epic lunacy.

Will extragalactic rats eat the moon?

Can a cybernetic toenail clipper find a worthy purpose in the vast universe? Will the first feline astronaut ever get a slice of pizza? Read on. Reworked from the Live Cartoon series of homespun video shorts released on Instagram in 2020 but retaining that “we’re making this up as we go” quality, the episodic tale begins with the electrifying discovery that our moon is being nibbled away. Off blast one strong, silent, furry hero—“Meow”—and a stowaway robot to our nearest celestial neighbor to hook up with the imperious Queen of the Moon and head toward the dark side, past challenges from pirates on the Sea of Tranquility and a sphinx with a riddle (“It weighs a ton, but floats on air. / It’s bald but has a lot of hair.” The answer? “Meow”). They endure multiple close but frustratingly glancing encounters with pizza and finally deliver the malign, multiheaded Rat King and its toothy armies to a suitable fate. Cue the massive pizza party! Aside from one pirate captain and a general back on Earth, the human and humanoid cast in Harris’ loosely drawn cartoon panels, from the appropriately moon-faced queen on, is light skinned. Merch, music, and the original episodes are available on an associated website.

Epic lunacy. (Graphic science fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308408-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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