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THE ISLAND HORSE

A few shipwrecks and less hand-wringing, and you'd have a good story.

Another misunderstood child. Another friendly stallion.

Young Ellie, still grieving her mother's death, is unhappy when her father takes a new job on remote Sable Island. This sand-shifting "Graveyard of the Atlantic," 25 miles long and one mile wide, causes multiple shipwrecks each year, and Ellie's father is joining a group of government rescue workers there. Ellie doesn't want to leave home, but within a few days of reaching Sable Island she's made friends with a wild stallion there. A few days after that, the villagers are holding their annual wild-horse roundup. Terrified that her new friend will be sold, Ellie begs her father for help. He suggests she—at 9 years old—lead the wild stallion to the far end of the island. Ellie does, and the stallion is saved (at least until next year). Hughes does well describing the physical setting but struggles with the temporal aspect. The author's note says the book takes place in the early 1800s, but the story and characters feel more modern than that. It's also hard to find the point—that Ellie doesn't want to leave her home? that the stallion shouldn't be captured?—and the pacing is far too abrupt for the emotional changes to be believable. It's too bad, because Sable Island itself is fascinating. 

A few shipwrecks and less hand-wringing, and you'd have a good story. (Historical fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-55453-592-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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CODY HARMON, KING OF PETS

From the Franklin School Friends series

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading.

When Franklin School principal Mr. Boone announces a pet-show fundraiser, white third-grader Cody—whose lack of skill and interest in academics is matched by keen enthusiasm for and knowledge of animals—discovers his time to shine.

As with other books in this series, the children and adults are believable and well-rounded. Even the dialogue is natural—no small feat for a text easily accessible to intermediate readers. Character growth occurs, organically and believably. Students occasionally, humorously, show annoyance with teachers: “He made mad squinty eyes at Mrs. Molina, which fortunately she didn’t see.” Readers will be kept entertained by Cody’s various problems and the eventual solutions. His problems include needing to raise $10 to enter one of his nine pets in the show (he really wants to enter all of them), his troublesome dog Angus—“a dog who ate homework—actually, who ate everything and then threw up afterward”—struggles with homework, and grappling with his best friend’s apparently uncaring behavior toward a squirrel. Serious values and issues are explored with a light touch. The cheery pencil illustrations show the school’s racially diverse population as well as the memorable image of Mr. Boone wearing an elephant costume. A minor oddity: why does a child so immersed in animal facts call his male chicken a rooster but his female chickens chickens?

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30223-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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ACOUSTIC ROOSTER AND HIS BARNYARD BAND

Having put together a band with renowned cousin Duck Ellington and singer “Bee” Holiday, Rooster’s chances sure look...

Winning actually isn’t everything, as jazz-happy Rooster learns when he goes up against the legendary likes of Mules Davis and Ella Finchgerald at the barnyard talent show.

Having put together a band with renowned cousin Duck Ellington and singer “Bee” Holiday, Rooster’s chances sure look good—particularly after his “ ‘Hen from Ipanema’ [makes] / the barnyard chickies swoon.”—but in the end the competition is just too stiff. No matter: A compliment from cool Mules and the conviction that he still has the world’s best band soon puts the strut back in his stride. Alexander’s versifying isn’t always in tune (“So, he went to see his cousin, / a pianist of great fame…”), and despite his moniker Rooster plays an electric bass in Bower’s canted country scenes. Children are unlikely to get most of the jokes liberally sprinkled through the text, of course, so the adults sharing it with them should be ready to consult the backmatter, which consists of closing notes on jazz’s instruments, history and best-known musicians.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58536-688-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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