A steppingstone to Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse (1983) and a worthy introduction to the Great War.

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INNOCENT HEROES

STORIES OF ANIMALS IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR

Brouwer uses the assault on Vimy Ridge during World War I to highlight the bravery of both Canadian troops and the animals that served.

Little Abigail the carrier pigeon miraculously gets a critical message from a small group under attack back to command. Tomato the border collie navigates the trenches during a gas attack with another critical message. Louise the packhorse carries hundreds of pounds of shells to the front lines for the final, successful barrage. The lives of these and five other animals (a cat, a war horse, a mule, a sniffer dog, and, improbably but historically, a lion) intersect with those of the young men of the 36th Battalion, principally Jake, a white farm boy from Manitoba; Thomas, a Cree boy from Saskatchewan, fresh out of the residential schools; and Charlie, a wealthy and disagreeable white boy from Toronto. Chapter by chapter, Brouwer details the action, highlighting the exploits of one animal in each; at the end of each chapter are brief nonfiction passages that provide factual context. While at times the writing is overwrought and the characterization largely simplistic, the author packs a lot into his schema, touting the superiority of Canada’s egalitarian approach to hierarchy while also acknowledging the racism of Canada’s policies toward the First Nations. Some of the dialogue, particularly Thomas’, is skillfully done and laugh-out-loud funny.

A steppingstone to Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse (1983) and a worthy introduction to the Great War. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-91846-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Tundra

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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A warm, real, and heartfelt tale.

WISH

Sent to stay with her aunt and uncle in Colby, North Carolina, an angry girl makes the same wish daily.

Charlie’s daddy’s in jail, her mama stays in bed all day, and her older sister’s living with a friend. Daily, the almost-11 white girl wishes for her broken family to heal. (The many ways she wishes form something of a catalog of folk and family traditions and are delightful all by themselves.) When the social worker sends her to live with Bertha and Gus, Charlie feels like “a loser that nobody wanted” and hates living with total strangers in a hillbilly town. Bertha and Gus, on the other hand, seem truly thrilled to have Charlie with them, even when she’s rude, sulking, or getting into trouble at school. Charlie doesn’t know what to make of affable, white Howard, the class geek, who walks with a limp and befriends her even though she ignores him. With Bertha and Gus, Charlie finds a stable, loving home. With Howard, Charlie finds a steadfast friend who helps her catch a stray dog she names Wishbone. After weeks living with Bertha and Gus, playing with Howard and Wishbone, and slowly fitting into Colby, Charlie learns Mama wants her to come home. But where is home? Speaking in an honest voice revealing her hurt, resentment, and vulnerability, Charlie explains how her wish comes true.

A warm, real, and heartfelt tale. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30273-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Korman’s fans will be right at home with this stand-alone novel.

SLACKER

From the Slacker series , Vol. 1

What could get the “Leonardo da Vinci of slackers” off his gaming couch?

Thirteen-year-old Cameron Boxer’s worked hard on his “lifestyle”: minimal effort at school and maximum time perfecting his gaming skills. His goal? Winning the Rule the World tournament with one of his two best friends, technical genius Pavel or loyal Chuck…but they have to avoid Evil McKillPeople, a Canadian gamer who for some reason has it in for Cam. Then the Great Ziti Inferno (Cam was too busy playing to take the ziti out of the oven as instructed) causes Cam’s parents to insist he unplug and do something with his life. The friends cook up a fake club, the Positive Action Group. They make Cam president and put a page on the school’s website, attracting the attention of do-gooder Daphne, who wants to save a beaver, class-president candidate Jordan, who needs a leg up in the election, along with reprobates and jocks who need to do community service. Suddenly the fake club is real, doing actual good, and sucking up valuable game time; that was never the plan! Prolific Korman turns in another group caper that would fit easily in his Swindle series. Cam’s borderline unlikable, and a few in the supporting cast don’t act like real people; but the tale, narrated by Cam and several others, is a pleasant diversion, though it’s not notable for its diversity.

Korman’s fans will be right at home with this stand-alone novel. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-82315-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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