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

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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A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure.

THE PIRATE PIG

It’s not truffles but doubloons that tickle this porcine wayfarer’s fancy.

Funke and Meyer make another foray into chapter-book fare after Emma and the Blue Genie (2014). Here, mariner Stout Sam and deckhand Pip eke out a comfortable existence on Butterfly Island ferrying cargo to and fro. Life is good, but it takes an unexpected turn when a barrel washes ashore containing a pig with a skull-and-crossbones pendant around her neck. It soon becomes clear that this little piggy, dubbed Julie, has the ability to sniff out treasure—lots of it—in the sea. The duo is pleased with her skills, but pride goeth before the hog. Stout Sam hands out some baubles to the local children, and his largess attracts the unwanted attention of Barracuda Bill and his nasty minions. Now they’ve pignapped Julie, and it’s up to the intrepid sailors to save the porker and their own bacon. The succinct word count meets the needs of kids looking for early adventure fare. The tale is slight, bouncy, and amusing, though Julie is never the piratical buccaneer the book’s cover seems to suggest. Meanwhile, Meyer’s cheery watercolors are as comfortable diagramming the different parts of a pirate vessel as they are rendering the dread pirate captain himself.

A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure. (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37544-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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