A diverting tale that champions nature as convincingly as its heroes do.




In Johnson’s (The Sword is Whet, 2017, etc.) middle-grade fantasy, a young girl and a squirrel, communicating telepathically, endeavor to broker peace between humans and forest creatures.

A squirrel named Mr. Wollo Bushtail believes that it’s time to embark on the Great Journey—leaving the forest to cross the dangerous place that humans call “the Road.” His subsequent encounter with a “man-creature” is quite a surprise, as the man understands The Speech, a telepathic communication known by all “forest people” (“animals” is considered an offensive term). Because of humans’ destructive nature, the Spirit of the Forest took The Speech away from them long ago. Wollo eventually befriends 9-year-old Sara Springborn and soon learns that humanity, as a whole, is even worse than forest people suspected. This is especially true of Sleemy Verm, president and CEO of Addicto-Chips, who wants to use the friends’ think-speech to transmit subliminal advertisements. Sara vows to save the Great Forest from harmful humans by warning the U.S. president. She also must confront a threat against her own kind: black bear Mr. Wintersleeper King, who can make people and things disappear—an ability that he proves by making a national monument vanish. Sara and Wollo race to Washington, D.C., before humans and forest people wind up destroying one another. Johnson’s thoroughly entertaining tale is a quick but memorable read. Names of characters and places, in particular, stand out, from Mr. Slitherlielow, whom Wollo wisely distrusts, to Saraville, Sarastate, where Sara lives. The story has a strong point of view as well as educational value; the villainous Verm, for example, is a junk-food peddler (complete with an evil taunt: “Nyah nyah nyah...”), and there are reminders that some forest creatures are indeed dangerous (Mr. Wintersleeper King, for instance, promises to eat any hecklers at a council meeting). Other baddies, such as one working with Verm, prove to be genuine menaces to Sara and Wollo, but the two also find an unexpected ally during a harrowing escape.

A diverting tale that champions nature as convincingly as its heroes do.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-978015-30-2

Page Count: 214

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.


A fan of magic and her reluctant companion embark on an adventure when the mysterious Blue Man charges them with a mission.

Little Katherine contemplates what exists behind the scrim of the sky, and she gets her answer after she meets a boy named Charlie, who literally runs into her upon fleeing a blue man and a talking salamander he encounters in the nearby forest. The man is non-threatening, and asks the two to help him recover some lost items, to which Katherine heartily agrees. He doesn’t provide much information, however, so once she and Charlie enter this enchanted universe, they must take it upon themselves to figure out what the Blue Man has lost and how to go about helping him find it. With the help of guides like snarky, enigmatic Gerald and good-natured Frank, the children travel through very deep puddles to different realms behind the clouds, learning about the Blue Man’s nemesis, Grey Lady, who may have snatched his magical dragon stones. Schilling’s well drawn, vibrant world elevates his story above the standard adventure quest. His lively, amusing dialogue complements a fantastical world where fish flit through the air like bees (and may accidentally transport you elsewhere), manta rays make shy cabbies, crushed flowers pop back to life and magic permeates everything. While adults will find the narrative captivating, this book is tailor-made for storytime read-alouds.

An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

Pub Date: July 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-595-36189-7

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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An expansion of the classic story of the pied piper, this tells of young Penelope, left behind when the piper returns for the children of Hamelin after saving the town from rats. On her 11th birthday, she must enter the world of dreams, accompanied by an eclectic assortment of companions—a talking cat, a jump-roping dragon, a blind harpist—and eventually face the piper himself in a battle of power, greed, and music. Narrated by a 101-year-old Penelope, the story bounces between recollections of the adventure, ruminations on her life, and meeting another Penelope, who is approaching her 11th birthday. By trying to incorporate too many subplots, Richardson fails to explain some of the more central points of the main story. He also introduces and dismisses concepts and props with no consistency. Penelope brings a jump rope with her, but it is rarely mentioned until she has use for it. The only way for Penelope to resist the piper’s enchanted music is to not hear it; she suddenly becomes deaf on her 11th birthday, an occurrence left unexplained. Nor does the reader ever find out why she conveniently regains her hearing upon entering the dreamland. Contrived and disjointed, this is an original interpretation that lacks development. Likely to attract lovers of fairy-tales, but it will disappoint. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-55037-629-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Firefly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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