The intense regional focus means the book will appeal mainly to visitors to the area and teachers of Arkansas history.

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PETIT JEAN

A WILDERNESS ADVENTURE

A young Frenchwoman masquerades as a boy in order to accompany her fiance to the New World in 1732.

In this retelling of an Arkansas legend, a young Parisian chevalier named André is given a land grant by Louis XV. Unwilling to be separated from him, André’s fiancee, Marguerite, disguises herself as a cabin boy. She secretly wears a golden medallion inscribed with the word Courage, a gift from King Louis. André sails to New Orleans unaware that Marguerite is aboard, though others recognize her. Marguerite becomes known as “Petit Jean” because of her small stature. Nearly a year elapses before André realizes that Marguerite has been by his side for the whole expedition. The original tale has been expanded by Jones to flesh out the historical account with details about the slave trade, the local Quapaw and Osage tribes, and the motivations of the French colonists as the explorers travel along the coasts of Cuba, Belize, and Louisiana. Very short chapters and simple prose help retain the legend’s folk characteristics. Light illustrations in pen and ink are supplemented by a period map that bookends the story, putting it into context. This novella could well serve as a starting point for inquiry into the colonial period.

The intense regional focus means the book will appeal mainly to visitors to the area and teachers of Arkansas history. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9905971-6-2

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Plum Street Publishers

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers.

THE CREATURE OF THE PINES

From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 1

Elliot’s first day of school turns out to be more than he bargained for.

Elliot Eisner—skinny and pale with curly brown hair—is a bit nervous about being the new kid. Thankfully, he hits it off with fellow new student, “punk rock”–looking Uchenna Devereaux, a black girl with twists (though they actually look like dreads in Aly’s illustrations). On a first-day field trip to New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, the pair investigates a noise in the trees. The cause? A Jersey Devil: a blue-furred, red-bellied and -winged mythical creature that looks like “a tiny dragon” with cloven hooves, like a deer’s, on its hind feet. Unwittingly, the duo bonds with the creature by feeding it, and it later follows them back to the bus. Unsurprisingly, they lose the creature (which they alternately nickname Jersey and Bonechewer), which forces them to go to their intimidating, decidedly odd teacher, Peruvian Professor Fauna, for help in recovering it. The book closes with Professor Fauna revealing the truth—he heads a secret organization committed to protecting mythical creatures—and inviting the children to join, a neat setup for what is obviously intended to be a series. The predictable plot is geared to newly independent readers who are not yet ready for the usual heft of contemporary fantasies. A brief history lesson given by a mixed-race associate of Fauna’s in which she compares herself to the American “melting pot” manages to come across as simultaneously corrective and appropriative.

Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3170-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that...

BEN FRANKLIN'S IN MY BATHROOM!

Antics both instructive and embarrassing ensue after a mysterious package left on their doorstep brings a Founding Father into the lives of two modern children.

Summoned somehow by what looks for all the world like an old-time crystal radio set, Ben Franklin turns out to be an amiable sort. He is immediately taken in hand by 7-year-old Olive for a tour of modern wonders—early versions of which many, from electrical appliances in the kitchen to the Illinois town’s public library and fire department, he justly lays claim to inventing. Meanwhile big brother Nolan, 10, tags along, frantic to return him to his own era before either their divorced mom or snoopy classmate Tommy Tuttle sees him. Fleming, author of Ben Franklin’s Almanac (2003) (and also, not uncoincidentally considering the final scene of this outing, Our Eleanor, 2005), mixes history with humor as the great man dispenses aphorisms and reminiscences through diverse misadventures, all of which end well, before vanishing at last. Following a closing, sequel-cueing kicker (see above) she then separates facts from fancies in closing notes, with print and online leads to more of the former. To go with spot illustrations of the evidently all-white cast throughout the narrative, Fearing incorporates change-of-pace sets of sequential panels for Franklin’s biographical and scientific anecdotes. Final illustrations not seen.

It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that adds flavor without weight. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93406-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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