Cats, a dash of fantasy, and a puzzling mystery are a recipe for a fun read despite an abrupt and unsatisfying ending.




Two children help their pet cat solve a mystery in this short, middle-grade first installment of a series.

Johnstone takes readers to a land known as Cat City. One night, sister and brother Amy and James decide to follow their cat, Kiwi, but they’re in for a surprise when they learn that Kiwi can talk. Kiwi transforms them into kittens and takes them with her to Cat City. Kiwi is called upon to help Inspector Furrball solve a series of catnappings that have occurred in the feline-filled city. While Amy and James (now Ames and Jimster) struggle to adapt to cat behavior, including licking their own fur, Kiwi investigates Catskins Limited, a company that makes biscuits and seems to be linked to the catnappings. Furrball asks his nephew, the bumbling, oafish Paws, to assist the trio, though he proves useless. The break in the case comes when Kiwi and Furrball discover that the Catskins delivery to Cat Crime has a false bottom that contains some mysterious contents. Kiwi, with help from Amy and James, tracks the catnapped catizens, but more treachery ensues. Though the book is a mystery, the bloodshed-free crime means that the book is safe enough for younger readers to enjoy, and funny moments—provided by the bumbling Paws and lots of “cat” wordplay—keep the story light. The sleuthing will captivate young readers, although the ending, which allows for a sequel, is disappointingly inconclusive. For example, readers never learn what was hidden beneath the false bottom of the Catskins box or about Dev’s background, the criminal mastermind. Nor do we get to see what happens when Amy and James return to their old human forms.

Cats, a dash of fantasy, and a puzzling mystery are a recipe for a fun read despite an abrupt and unsatisfying ending.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2012


Page Count: 154

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2015

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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