Works equally well as simple animal tale, metaphysical journey, or reimagining of classic artworks.


In Malta, a stray kitten seeks a better life.

Cilla the kitten is tired of eating scraps as a dockyard stray. A tale of “the quiet garden” where the humans are kind piques her interest, though all the other Maltese cats laugh at her for believing in fairy tales. Her skeptical best friend, a yellow kitten named Betto, joins Cilla against his better judgement. Their journey takes them through danger and around Malta while the animals they meet speak in philosophical riddles that Cilla takes as literal instruction. The stories that their mentors tell are illustrated as reimagined, primarily European works of art. There’s no particular reason for Cilla and Betto to appear in these works, as they explore the Bayeux tapestry, are protected from Hokusai’s Great Wave, and nap in Vincent Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night. But the transformed classic artworks add visual interest to the deceptively simple panels (and for interested readers, a detailed endnote lists most of the works with some artistic context). Cilla’s a white cat with striking black markings that accentuate her expressive face, whether she’s disgruntled, scared, despairing, or happy to be with her best friend. The angles of her ears, drawn in simple, cartoonish stokes, tell the story of her feelings to any reader familiar with the body language of cats.

Works equally well as simple animal tale, metaphysical journey, or reimagining of classic artworks. (Graphic fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-293205-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals.


Is dolphin-assisted therapy so beneficial to patients that it’s worth keeping a wild dolphin captive?

Twelve-year-old Lily has lived with her emotionally distant oncologist stepfather and a succession of nannies since her mother died in a car accident two years ago. Nannies leave because of the difficulty of caring for Adam, Lily’s severely autistic 4-year-old half brother. The newest, Suzanne, seems promising, but Lily is tired of feeling like a planet orbiting the sun Adam. When she meets blind Zoe, who will attend the same private middle school as Lily in the fall, Lily’s happy to have a friend. However, Zoe’s take on the plight of the captive dolphin, Nori, used in Adam’s therapy opens Lily’s eyes. She knows she must use her influence over her stepfather, who is consulting on Nori’s treatment for cancer (caused by an oil spill), to free the animal. Lily’s got several fine lines to walk, as she works to hold onto her new friend, convince her stepfather of the rightness of releasing Nori, and do what’s best for Adam. In her newest exploration of animal-human relationships, Rorby’s lonely, mature heroine faces tough but realistic situations. Siblings of children on the spectrum will identify with Lily. If the tale flirts with sentimentality and some of the characters are strident in their views, the whole never feels maudlin or didactic.

Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-67605-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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An optimistic journey of self-acceptance.


Debut author Machias’ novel explores genderfluidity and gender nonconformity as elements of navigating middle school.

Told in two alternating narrative voices, the story follows Ash and Daniel, a pair of Ohio seventh graders who are on a shared mission to rescue an old dog the world doesn’t seem to have room for, a not-so-subtle metaphor highlighting the vulnerabilities faced by all abandoned souls. Throughout their growing kinship, Ash and Daniel struggle with the divergent expectations of those around them: Ash with shifting gender presentations and Daniel with his emotionality and sensitivity. Entering a new school and feeling pressured to pick and disclose a single gender, Ash’s conflicts begin with trying to decide whether to use the boys’, girls’, or gender-neutral bathroom. The school’s diverse Rainbow Alliance is a source of support, but Ash’s parents remain split by more than divorce, with a supportive mom and a dad who tries but fails to understand genderfluidity. Daniel, who has a talent for photography, is a passionate animal lover who volunteers at a local kennel and initially believes Ash is a girl. Ash’s synesthesia amplifies the tension as Ash and Daniel discover a mutual romantic interest. The novel grapples with the impact of society’s overly simplistic messages, but the characterizations at times lack depth, and there are missed opportunities to explore the subtleties of relationships. Main characters are White.

An optimistic journey of self-acceptance. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-305389-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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