More beguilingly titled silly business featuring the oddest of odd couples.

THE SECRET TIME MACHINE AND THE GHERKIN SWITCHEROO

A lie pitches Marcus the earthworm and his avian housemate, Laurence, into a series of daffy pranks and adventures.

The domestic bliss into which the two settled in They Didn’t Teach THIS In Worm School! (2018) is upset when, in a desperate effort to get his chubby layabout companion off his feathered duff, Marcus makes a wild claim that his aunt has invented a time machine. This leaves the worried worm realizing that he must produce, lest he risk a disastrous breakup with his now-excited friend. Fortunately, after discovering that inventing an actual time machine on the spur of the moment is impracticable (go figure), Marcus finds an unexpected ally in Vera, a neighboring bird who enlists other creatures to dress as Robin Hood and company and lay out a sumptuous woodland banquet. Not only is Laurence totally convinced that he’s traveled back in time, so is Marcus (though he wonders why everyone keeps winking at him). Marcus does at last confess his lie, and though Laurence is understandably peeved, the two make up in time to save themselves and some oddly passive slugs from being shot into the sky with a catapult belonging to Mole, a mean bully. As in the opener, readers resilient enough to go with the flow will chuckle over the plot’s surreal set pieces and also the comical cartoons and vignettes that Lia scatters across nearly every spaciously leaded page. By the end, thanks to some couples therapy from Vera, the two are getting along better than ever.

More beguilingly titled silly business featuring the oddest of odd couples. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0740-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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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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