The story’s focus on Gabe, as cranky and independent as his human, makes for a surprisingly accessible introduction to the...

GABE

A STORY OF ME, MY DOG, AND THE 1970S

Just as Steinbeck took Charley on his travels, teenage Gill went with Gabe: “Home was where your friends were, so Gabe and I became each other’s home.”

More in search of a satisfactory place to settle down than some nebulous America, Gill recalls leaving home at 17 and meeting the blue merle husky mix that became her canine companion in a first aid tent at a 1972 Rainbow Tribe festival in Colorado. From there, the two hitchhiked to New Orleans, then onward across the country before fetching up, ultimately, in Alaska. As a late, glancing reference to marriage and divorce indicates, Gill leaves a lot out, but what she includes strings both simple adventures and emotionally complex moments one after another into an episodic but loving tribute. She describes living in the French Quarter, where “overdoses and pistol-whippings by the police were common,” losing her beloved dog and then being joyfully reunited, raising a litter of husky pups abandoned by their mother, and, in later years, running an Iditarod and finally holding Gabe in her arms as old age takes him. The tale is printed on full-bleed color paintings that add considerably to their vividness by centering on the author’s independent, confident-looking figure and on a dog that, as often as not, is posed with teeth bared in a feral snarl.

The story’s focus on Gabe, as cranky and independent as his human, makes for a surprisingly accessible introduction to the 1970s for middle graders. (afterword) (Graphic memoir. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-57091-354-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale.

A WHALE OF THE WILD

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: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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