A highly appealing novel for tweens about a resourceful animal lover and his family and friends, infused with gentle humor...

JEREMY NORBECK

ANIMAL WHIZ KID

In this engaging middle-grade novel, a fifth-grader tries to find a way to earn money for the upkeep of his assorted pets.

In young Jeremy’s room, “just about every flat surface…was covered with a cage or a tank containing an animal, or some kind of pet supply.” He loves to observe wild and domestic animal behavior. But money is tight after Dad loses his job, and Jeremy has a menagerie to take care of, including a growing lizard named Firebeard. His parents explain that “[i]t’s the economy. It’s happening everywhere,” but with Jeremy’s best friend, Zac, moving away, he can’t bear to lose his pets, too. A new cage for Firebeard is a pressing priority, and Jeremy’s other critters, including a dog, a cat, a dove and a hedgehog, need food and bedding. He launches a business to teach people how to care for their pets, but it gets off to a rocky start when his first client turns out to be first-time dog owner Hallie, his snooty classroom nemesis. But when Jeremy’s couch-potato brother tells him about a kids’ TV quiz show with a big-money prize, Jeremy formulates a plan to get accepted as a contestant—and he aims to win. Debut author Dunlap’s deft narrative includes well-integrated animal lore as well as a light touch of humor: Mom practices taekwondo in the yard, and Dad has a green thumb and talks to his plants (“ ‘You can do it,’ Mr. Norbeck said, leaning close to some lettuce. ‘Reach for the sky’ ”). The author also relates Jeremy’s compassionate, single-minded interest in all things animal with genuine feeling. When Jeremy accidentally trips over his cat, Tabasco, for example, he scoops her up, apologizes and makes sure she’s not hurt, and although he really doesn’t want to work with Hallie, he still wants her little dog to be safe and well-cared-for. In the end, one of Jeremy’s moneymaking ideas pays off unexpectedly for everyone—even Firebeard.

A highly appealing novel for tweens about a resourceful animal lover and his family and friends, infused with gentle humor and informative tidbits about animals of all kinds.

Pub Date: March 31, 2014

ISBN: 978-0985879105

Page Count: 140

Publisher: Carlin Pond Press

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2014

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A story with a tried-and-true plot that needs to freshen up its presentation.

The Lost Little Rabbit

A lost bunny searches for his mother in this debut picture book.

The youngster is already lost in the beginning of Lakhiani’s version of the time-honored tale of a lost child reuniting witha parent. On a foggy day, a young rabbit finds that he doesn’t recognize where he is. He calls for his mother, but instead of her voice in response, he hears the hum of a bumblebee. The nameless little rabbit asks if the bee knows where his home is, but the bee doesn’t and sends him on to the wise owl, who “sees everything.” As the little rabbit runs through the “eerie” fog toward the owl’s tree, he meets a kind squirrel. “I’ve lost my mother….I am lost and scared,” explains the little rabbit. The squirrel leads the rabbit to the wise owl’s tree, which the rabbit climbs to ask the owl, “[C]an you see where I live?” The fog is too thick for the owl to spot little rabbit’s home, so he gives the little rabbit a snack and invites him to rest. Falling asleep, the little rabbit dreams of his mother but is awakened by the hooting, buzzing and chattering of his three new friends. Looking around, he sees his mother, who embraces him: “I will never again let you out of my sight,” she tells him. The digitized art by Adams, some of which is credited to Thinkstock, is in a cartoon style that clearly delineates the characters but includes a few anthropomorphic details—a graduation cap for the owl, spectacles for the squirrel and only four legs for the bee—that add little value. Since the story centers on the little rabbit failing to recognize where he is, the choice to make the right-hand page of every spread identical is potentially confusing; regardless, it’s repetitious. The text fails in the opposite direction: It doesn’t create the typical patterns that can help toddlers follow the story, build anticipation and learn to chime in—steps on the path to reading alone. Erratic rhythms, changing stanza lengths and rhyme schemes, and awkward syntax undercut attempts to enliven the tale with poetry.

A story with a tried-and-true plot that needs to freshen up its presentation.

Pub Date: May 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1491895603

Page Count: 24

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2015

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An excellent introduction to the Kenyan culture for children.

If You Were Me and Lived in ...Kenya

A CHILD'S INTRODUCTION TO CULTURES AROUND THE WORLD

Roman (If You Were Me and Lived In…Norway, 2013, etc.) offers a children’s primer of the geography, sports, food and vocabulary that Kenyan kids encounter in their daily lives.

The latest installment in this cultural series—preceded by books on Mexico, France, South Korea and Norway—takes young readers to the African nation of Kenya, where they get a short, engaging lesson on the country’s culture. The opening phrase “If you were me…” helps kids imagine a narrator not much different from themselves. Their Kenyan counterpart lives with their parents (“If you needed your mommy, you would call for Mzazi. When you are speaking to your daddy, you would call him Baba”), buys milk from the market and pays for it “with a shilling,” eats snacks (“samosa, a small triangular pastry filled with meat or vegetables and fried in oil”) and goes to school. The book covers Mombasa Carnival, a large yearly festival, and discusses its importance. It also explains the basics of cricket, a popular sport in Kenya, and the fact that kids usually entertain themselves with handmade toys. Roman’s books are successful since she draws connections between cultures while maintaining a tone that keeps young readers engaged. Colorful illustrations further enhance the text, such as one showing kids playing with cricket bats. A glossary at the end offers a pronunciation key for the unfamiliar words throughout. This series of books would be a natural fit in school classrooms and would also provide a good way for parents to teach their own kids about the cultures, languages and geography of different countries. This installment is a quick read that may help kids see the similarities between themselves and their Kenyan peers.

An excellent introduction to the Kenyan culture for children.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2013

ISBN: 978-1481979917

Page Count: 30

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2014

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