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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Thought-provoking and charming.

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THE WILD ROBOT

A sophisticated robot—with the capacity to use senses of sight, hearing, and smell—is washed to shore on an island, the only robot survivor of a cargo of 500.

When otters play with her protective packaging, the robot is accidently activated. Roz, though without emotions, is intelligent and versatile. She can observe and learn in service of both her survival and her principle function: to help. Brown links these basic functions to the kind of evolution Roz undergoes as she figures out how to stay dry and intact in her wild environment—not easy, with pine cones and poop dropping from above, stormy weather, and a family of cranky bears. She learns to understand and eventually speak the language of the wild creatures (each species with its different “accent”). An accident leaves her the sole protector of a baby goose, and Roz must ask other creatures for help to shelter and feed the gosling. Roz’s growing connection with her environment is sweetly funny, reminiscent of Randall Jarrell’s The Animal Family. At every moment Roz’s actions seem plausible and logical yet surprisingly full of something like feeling. Robot hunters with guns figure into the climax of the story as the outside world intrudes. While the end to Roz’s benign and wild life is startling and violent, Brown leaves Roz and her companions—and readers—with hope.

Thought-provoking and charming. (Science fiction/fantasy. 7-11)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-38199-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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