BLACK STAR, BRIGHT DAWN

When her father's injuries force him to drop out of the annual dog-sled race from Anchorage to Nome—the 1179-mile Iditarod—Bright Dawn takes his place. Bright Dawn (18) hunts with her father till an experience adrift on an ice floe makes him so fearful that his family moves inland to Ikuma, a checkpoint on the Iditarod. There. as a gifted dog-handler, he is drafted for the great race; and sponsors agree, out of need, to accept his daughter as his substitute—she has been helping him train and has a special relationship with Black Star, the independent-minded lead dog. At Anchorage, Bright Dawn is befriended by Oteg, an experienced racer whose nine daughters spurn his advice—Bright Dawn agrees to accept at least some of it. The narrative focuses on their race together—the strategy of holding back at the onset and of timing rest periods, building igloos, helping other competitors; the dangers come from the rough, frigid terrain and encounters with wolves and moose, so that (at least for these participants) cooperation for survival comes to outweigh the race itself. Still, by taking some of Otek's advice, balanced by Black Star's instincts and her own sense, Bright Dawn is running first at a crucial point; and though she comes far from winning, her moral victory is satisfying. O'Dell's focus on Bright Dawn intensifies the drama of her struggle against the wilderness and its lesson in self-reliance; it may also leave readers wondering how different the other racers' experiences might be. As she returns to her own father, even Otek vanishes—where did he place? Still, readers will share a splendid, vividly written adventure with Bright Dawn; perhaps that is enough.

Pub Date: April 1, 1988

ISBN: 0547053193

Page Count: 108

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1988

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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