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

READ REVIEW

THE ISLAND HORSE

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. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS

This is rather a silly story, and I don't believe children will think it particularly funny. A paper hanger and painter finds time on his hands in winter, and spends it in reading of arctic exploration. It is all given reality when he receives a present of a penguin, which makes its nest in the refrigerator on cubes of ice, mates with a lonely penguin from the zoo, and produces a family of penguins which help set the Poppers on their feet.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1938

ISBN: 978-0-316-05843-8

Page Count: 139

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1938

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Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers.

THE CREATURE OF THE PINES

From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 1

Elliot’s first day of school turns out to be more than he bargained for.

Elliot Eisner—skinny and pale with curly brown hair—is a bit nervous about being the new kid. Thankfully, he hits it off with fellow new student, “punk rock”–looking Uchenna Devereaux, a black girl with twists (though they actually look like dreads in Aly’s illustrations). On a first-day field trip to New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, the pair investigates a noise in the trees. The cause? A Jersey Devil: a blue-furred, red-bellied and -winged mythical creature that looks like “a tiny dragon” with cloven hooves, like a deer’s, on its hind feet. Unwittingly, the duo bonds with the creature by feeding it, and it later follows them back to the bus. Unsurprisingly, they lose the creature (which they alternately nickname Jersey and Bonechewer), which forces them to go to their intimidating, decidedly odd teacher, Peruvian Professor Fauna, for help in recovering it. The book closes with Professor Fauna revealing the truth—he heads a secret organization committed to protecting mythical creatures—and inviting the children to join, a neat setup for what is obviously intended to be a series. The predictable plot is geared to newly independent readers who are not yet ready for the usual heft of contemporary fantasies. A brief history lesson given by a mixed-race associate of Fauna’s in which she compares herself to the American “melting pot” manages to come across as simultaneously corrective and appropriative.

Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3170-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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