A challenging exercise in decoding strong human emotions—but worth the effort.


From the Netherlands via New Zealand, 10 short stories with casts of animal characters examine varying aspects of anger, whether overt, subtle, or suppressed.

In the first tale, a firebelly toad’s anger takes the form of harsh and violent attacks on other animals, causing them great pain. The toad demands expressions of anger from the victims but perceives their anger as not real or strong enough. The victims are upset because they cannot understand the immensity of the firebelly toad’s anger. In another story, a squirrel is sad that his ant friend has gone away; he cannot be angry but waits patiently for the ant’s return—but his anger is displaced, strangely enough, onto the walls of his home. Most of the tales involve animals in varying stages of anger, some directing it inward, some lashing out at others, some fearing another’s anger, and some letting it go. Many of the male animals are actively aggressive, while many of the females display stereotypes. The ant needs to be rescued, the praying mantis is a fashionista, and the frog displays jealousy. Boutavant’s rich, nuanced illustrations depict the animals as expressing human emotions and living in humanlike dwellings while still remaining true to their species in appearance. Youngsters might be quite perplexed by the tales, for Tellegen rarely provides clues to the characters’ motivations and often leaves readers to arrive at their own conclusions. They would be well served by reading and discussing the work with a loving grown-up.

A challenging exercise in decoding strong human emotions—but worth the effort. (Illustrated stories. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-776573-45-5

Page Count: 82

Publisher: Gecko Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Contrived at some points, polemic at others, but a stout defense of the right to read.


A shy fourth-grader leads the revolt when censors decimate her North Carolina school’s library.

In a tale that is dominated but not overwhelmed by its agenda, Gratz takes Amy Anne, a young black bibliophile, from the devastating discovery that her beloved From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler has been removed from the library at the behest of Mrs. Spencer, a despised classmate’s mom, to a qualified defense of intellectual freedom at a school board meeting: “Nobody has the right to tell you what books you can and can’t read except your parents.” Meanwhile, as more books vanish, Amy Anne sets up a secret lending library of banned titles in her locker—a ploy that eventually gets her briefly suspended by the same unsympathetic principal who fires the school’s doctorate-holding white librarian for defiantly inviting Dav Pilkey in for an author visit. Characters frequently serve as mouthpieces for either side, sometimes deadly serious and other times tongue-in-cheek (“I don’t know about you guys, but ever since I read Wait Till Helen Comes, I’ve been thinking about worshipping Satan”). Indeed, Amy Anne’s narrative is positively laced with real titles that have been banned or challenged and further enticing teasers for them.

Contrived at some points, polemic at others, but a stout defense of the right to read. (discussion guide) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7653-8556-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Starscape/Tom Doherty

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean.


A 12-year-old copes with a brain tumor.

Maddie likes potatoes and fake mustaches. Kids at school are nice (except one whom readers will see instantly is a bully); soon they’ll get to perform Shakespeare scenes in a unit they’ve all been looking forward to. But recent dysfunctions in Maddie’s arm and leg mean, stunningly, that she has a brain tumor. She has two surgeries, the first successful, the second taking place after the book’s end, leaving readers hanging. The tumor’s not malignant, but it—or the surgeries—could cause sight loss, personality change, or death. The descriptions of surgery aren’t for the faint of heart. The authors—parents of a real-life Maddie who really had a brain tumor—imbue fictional Maddie’s first-person narration with quirky turns of phrase (“For the love of potatoes!”) and whimsy (she imagines her medical battles as epic fantasy fights and pretends MRI stands for Mustard Rat from Indiana or Mustaches Rock Importantly), but they also portray her as a model sick kid. She’s frightened but never acts out, snaps, or resists. Her most frequent commentary about the tumor, having her skull opened, and the possibility of death is “Boo” or “Super boo.” She even shoulders the bully’s redemption. Maddie and most characters are white; one cringe-inducing hallucinatory surgery dream involves “chanting island natives” and a “witch doctor lady.”

Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean. (authors’ note, discussion questions) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62972-330-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?