A quirky little tale with appeal to newly minted independent readers with sophisticated senses of humor.

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WOLF AND DOG

Translated from Dutch, this brief import describes the sometimes-humorous interactions between Dog and his toothy cousin, Wolf.

Presented in nine chapters, with just a few scant stanzas of free verse to a page, the stories evoke simple situations and minor conflicts, including a very scary (to Wolf, anyway) cat who has invaded his woods. Wolf, full of bluster, is never really as frightful as he thinks himself to be; Dog is mostly calm, although when faced with the stress of driving away the cat with a fearsome bark, he can only manage a pathetic “Weef!” This is all the funnier since the illustration shows him giving it his all before an unimpressed feline. In a typical passage, Wolf intends to raid Dog’s refrigerator: “Give me beer and meat and soup and cheese. / And half a dozen loaves of bread. / Heap the plate high. / I need to build up my strength!” In another, which seems to suffer from a translation issue, Wolf rearranges the letters of some of Dog’s words, creating new ones. Unfortunately, the rearranged word that confusingly sets the scene is “pack” to “cap.” Others—“live” to “evil” and “star” to “rats”—work better. More appealing than the text are Tolman’s delicately detailed, yet childlike color-infused, anthropomorphic illustrations that appear on almost every spread.

A quirky little tale with appeal to newly minted independent readers with sophisticated senses of humor. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-877579-47-9

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Gecko Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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Sweetly low-key and totally accessible.

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THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER

Billy Miller’s second-grade year is quietly spectacular in a wonderfully ordinary way.

Billy’s year begins with his worry over the lump on his head, a souvenir of a dramatic summer fall onto concrete: Will he be up to the challenges his new teacher promises in her letter to students? Quickly overshadowing that worry, however, is a diplomatic crisis over whether he has somehow offended Ms. Silver on the first day of school. Four sections—Teacher, Father, Sister and Mother—offer different and essential focal points for Billy’s life, allowing both him and readers to explore several varieties of creative endeavor, small adventures, and, especially, both challenges and successful problem-solving. The wonderfully self-possessed Sal, his 3-year-old sister, is to Billy much as Ramona is to Beezus, but without the same level of tension. Her pillowcase full of the plush yellow whales she calls the Drop Sisters (Raindrop, Gumdrop, etc.) is a memorable prop. Henkes offers what he so often does in these longer works for children: a sense that experiences don’t have to be extraordinary to be important and dramatic. Billy’s slightly dreamy interior life isn’t filled with either angst or boisterous silliness—rather, the moments that appear in these stories are clarifying bits of the universal larger puzzle of growing up, changing and understanding the world. Small, precise black-and-white drawings punctuate and decorate the pages.

Sweetly low-key and totally accessible. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-226812-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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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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