A slight and predictable story that will likely find most appeal with serious dog (or bunny) lovers.

FENWAY AND HATTIE AND THE EVIL BUNNY GANG

From the Fenway and Hattie series , Vol. 2

There’s a single conceit to this series: Fenway, the exuberant Jack Russell terrier who relates the tale, understands people—but in a charming and, well, doggy way.

That’s not much to sustain the narrative for middle-grade audiences, since characterizations are simplistically filtered through Fenway’s canine mind. In this second in the series, Fenway’s girl, Hattie, is caring for a pet rabbit. Fenway regards Evil Bunny as he does the wild backyard rabbits: it’s a dangerous threat. He’s also painfully jealous, as Hattie finds the rabbit all too cute. Fenway doesn’t observe the racial characteristics of people but sort of understands the language of his family, including Hattie’s parents, Fetch Man and Food Lady, the latter of whom is given to saying things like “Weul see” and “Wah-chim.” There are scattered subtle hints of other issues. Hattie feels torn between super-girlie friend Zahra and baseball-focused Angel, but Fenway is oblivious to the strained relationship between neighboring dogs Patches, a newcomer, and Goldie, a jealous first pet. Hattie lets Zahra take the blame for the tear Fenway makes in Angel’s baseball jacket, although later she owns up. In a lively scene, Fenway wrecks the house while chasing the rabbit right out the door. Only later does he bravely rescue the bunny to restore Hattie’s (and his own) happiness.

A slight and predictable story that will likely find most appeal with serious dog (or bunny) lovers. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-99633-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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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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