Tense, heartwarming, and masterful.

When wildfires threaten their home, 11-year-old Cara and her family flee, unintentionally leaving Cara’s dog, Mike, behind in this middle-grade novel in first-person, present-tense verse. 

When she was 9, Cara picked out Mike from the shelter, eschewing the adorable goldendoodle puppies and setting her heart instead on a one-eyed grown-up mutt despite her parents’ misgivings. Green does a marvelous job of using backstory to deepen the commitment and love between dog and girl—Cara’s insecurities about school, her older sister, and her need for the stability provided by her crossword-puzzle routine are all soothed by Mike’s unflagging loyalty. But when wildfires rage close and the family has 10 minutes to leave, Mike goes missing. The skillful narrative turns white-knuckle tense as taut verse describes the family fleeing on a road clogged with cars and burning trees, while Cara desperately scans the roadside for Mike. Reaching safety, the family is hosted by the Bains, a brown-skinned couple with a white foster daughter, Jewel. (Cara and her family are implied white.) Jewel and Cara put a notice about Mike on the internet and notify shelters, but as the days tick by and Mike remains missing, Cara faces the wrenching possibility that he is gone—just as, as her family finds out, their house is gone and just as her best friend Heather, who is moving away, will soon be gone.

Tense, heartwarming, and masterful. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77278-045-1

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Pajama Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018


A multicultural title with obvious appeal for animal-loving middle graders.

When a Bengali boy finds and saves a tiger cub from a man who wants to sell her on the black market, he realizes that the schoolwork he resents could lead to a career protecting his beloved Sunderbans island home.

When the not-yet-weaned cub escapes from a nearby reserve, Neel and many of his neighbors join the search. But some are in the pay of greedy Gupta, a shady entrepreneur who’s recently settled in their community. Even Neel’s father is tempted by Gupta’s money, although he knows that Gupta doesn’t plan to take the cub back to the refuge. Neel and his sister use the boy’s extensive knowledge of the island’s swampy interior to find the cub’s hiding place and lure it out so it can be returned to its mother. The Kolkota-born author visited the remote Sunderbans in the course of her research. She lovingly depicts this beautiful tropical forest in the context of Neel’s efforts to find the cub and his reluctance to leave his familiar world. While the conflicts resolve a bit too easily, the sense of place is strong and the tiger cub’s rescue very satisfying. Pastel illustrations will help readers envision the story.

A multicultural title with obvious appeal for animal-loving middle graders. (author's note, organizations, glossary) (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-58089-660-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015



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

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: March 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

Close Quickview