A funny, sweet-natured tale about getting along despite differences.

SWITCHES & PEEPS

MAN'S BEST FRIENDS

Reluctant at first, a cat makes friends with the family’s new robot in this children’s novel.

Peeps, a fluffy white cat, notices her owner, Max, whose tan skin is a shade between his darker father and paler mother, opening a cardboard box. A new fort to play in! But what that box contains is a “ready-to-program Buddy Bot Y2K robot brain,” which Max attaches to a robot body constructed from spare TV and car parts. When Switches, as he’s named, clomps into Peeps’ life, she’s suspicious and resentful, not knowing what to make of his fluency in cat language. He’s a showoff, capturing her family’s attention, and besides, he stomps her cardboard fort. Switches, meanwhile, believes he’s made a new friend. Peeps decides to get back at the robot, so she takes advantage of his trusting nature to get him in trouble and locked in the garage. Peeps, realizing she doesn’t want to be mean, deliberately misbehaves so she can join Switches in garage exile and apologize. In the end, the two become friends. Giles, who has also written and illustrated the Fitting Out series of children’s books, subtly addresses children’s mixed feelings about newcomers to the family with understanding and humor. Peeps’ point of view provides some wonderfully comic moments, as with her ever-so-helpful routine that includes sleeping on freshly laundered clothes: “Her family would certainly be grateful for any cat hairs she left behind. After all, they did not have much hair of their own.” Giles’ whimsical illustrations add expression to the nonhuman characters; Peeps, for example, can be pleased, skeptical, or peeved. The drawings also contribute risible commentary, like when Switches and Max both draw Peeps with very different skill.

A funny, sweet-natured tale about getting along despite differences.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 102

Publisher: Birch Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2020

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS

This is rather a silly story, and I don't believe children will think it particularly funny. A paper hanger and painter finds time on his hands in winter, and spends it in reading of arctic exploration. It is all given reality when he receives a present of a penguin, which makes its nest in the refrigerator on cubes of ice, mates with a lonely penguin from the zoo, and produces a family of penguins which help set the Poppers on their feet.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1938

ISBN: 978-0-316-05843-8

Page Count: 139

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1938

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