The Stanleys are back from Italy (The Famous Stanley Kidnapping Case), more-or-less resettled in the Westerly House (The Headless Cupid)—where David, a shaky 13, doesn't know what to make of family-fantasizer Blair's nightly jaunts to see a dog in the yard. . . or how to deal with hulking, taunting classmate Pete Garvey. Adolescing stepsister Amanda is an enigma too—admiring Pete's physique, punching him out to protect David, looking sympathetic? pitying? And why does Pete start hanging around? But the problem that grows ever-bigger is Blair's dog. Dad and stepmother Molly quarrel over his clamp-down on Blair's "fantasizing." Six-year-old Blair's twin Esther, and resident-snoop Janie, huddle with him. A neighbor's smokehouse is broken into—only maybe by two escaped cons. On a spooky night—when the cons have just resurfaced, and Dad and Molly are out—the older children discover one thing at least: there is a real dog, a monstrous, gentle Irish wolfhound, whom the little children have named Nightmare. Further sleuthing by Janie (who spotted the breed in a book) explains his old bullet-wound and his fear of grown men: guard-dog training, by a vicious owner. All the more reason, then, to conceal Nightmare from Dad—who's already vetoed the idea of a dog, who'll feel obliged to contact the owner. The ensuing conspiracy is an all-hands, full-time operation. Nightmare spends nights with Blair and David, behind a warily locked door. (Once, Molly does demand admittance.) Days, he disappears—where? Massive as he is, he must be massively fed—hence the kibble caper. Then, for a couple of nights, he doesn't show up; Blair steals off to search for him; David finds both of them—turning up the fugitive cons (sick, dejected), bringing them in, becoming an embarrassed/ pleased hero. Amanda has made her new sisterly feelings known. Pete, confiding his (transparent) interest in Amanda, tells the still-droopy David not to confuse fighting and courage. As for Nightmare, you know Dad won't be able to resist his oversized appeal, his part in the heroics, or Molly's good-natured teasing. ("How could an imaginary dog be a burden?") The family mix continues to work its charm, the personalities to unfold independently—with more to be seen or heard, it appears, of Blair's elusive friend Harriet.

Pub Date: March 9, 1984

ISBN: 0375895159

Page Count: 196

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1984

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Uncomplicated fun that sets readers up for the earlier, more-complicated books to come.


From the Little Blue Truck series

Little Blue Truck and his pal Toad meet friends old and new on a springtime drive through the country.

This lift-the-flap, interactive entry in the popular Little Blue Truck series lacks the narrative strength and valuable life lessons of the original Little Blue Truck (2008) and its sequel, Little Blue Truck Leads the Way (2009). Both of those books, published for preschoolers rather than toddlers, featured rich storylines, dramatic, kinetic illustrations, and simple but valuable life lessons—the folly of taking oneself too seriously, the importance of friends, and the virtue of taking turns, for example. At about half the length and with half as much text as the aforementioned titles, this volume is a much quicker read. Less a story than a vernal celebration, the book depicts a bucolic drive through farmland and encounters with various animals and their young along the way. Beautifully rendered two-page tableaux teem with butterflies, blossoms, and vibrant pastel, springtime colors. Little Blue greets a sheep standing in the door of a barn: “Yoo-hoo, Sheep! / Beep-beep! / What’s new?” Folding back the durable, card-stock flap reveals the barn’s interior and an adorable set of twin lambs. Encounters with a duck and nine ducklings, a cow with a calf, a pig with 10 (!) piglets, a family of bunnies, and a chicken with a freshly hatched chick provide ample opportunity for counting and vocabulary work.

Uncomplicated fun that sets readers up for the earlier, more-complicated books to come. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-93809-0

Page Count: 16

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.


A 15-year-old girl in Colombia, doing time in a remote detention center, orchestrates a jail break and tries to get home.

"People say drugs and alcohol are the greatest and most persuasive narcotics—the elements most likely to ruin a life. They're wrong. It's love." As the U.S. recovers from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from the misery of separations on the border, from both the idea and the reality of a wall around the United States, Engel's vital story of a divided Colombian family is a book we need to read. Weaving Andean myth and natural symbolism into her narrative—condors signify mating for life, jaguars revenge; the embattled Colombians are "a singed species of birds without feathers who can still fly"; children born in one country and raised in another are "repotted flowers, creatures forced to live in the wrong habitat"—she follows Talia, the youngest child, on a complex journey. Having committed a violent crime not long before she was scheduled to leave her father in Bogotá to join her mother and siblings in New Jersey, she winds up in a horrible Catholic juvie from which she must escape in order to make her plane. Hence the book's wonderful first sentence: "It was her idea to tie up the nun." Talia's cross-country journey is interwoven with the story of her parents' early romance, their migration to the United States, her father's deportation, her grandmother's death, the struggle to reunite. In the latter third of the book, surprising narrative shifts are made to include the voices of Talia's siblings, raised in the U.S. This provides interesting new perspectives, but it is a little awkward to break the fourth wall so late in the book. Attention, TV and movie people: This story is made for the screen.

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982159-46-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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The greeting-card art and jokey rhymes work for the baby-shower market but not for the youngest readers.


Animal parents declare their love for their offspring through rhymed puns and sentimental art.

The title sets the scene for what’s to come: The owl asks the owlet as they fly together, “WHOO loves you?”; the kangaroo and joey make each other “very HOPPY”; and the lioness and cub are a “PURRRFECT pair.” Most of the puns are both unimaginative and groanworthy, and they are likely to go over the heads of toddlers, who are not know for their wordplay abilities. The text is set in abcb quatrains split over two double-page spreads. On each spread, one couplet appears on the verso within a lightly decorated border on pastel pages. On the recto, a full-bleed portrait of the animal and baby appears in softly colored and cozy images. Hearts are prominent on every page, floating between the parent and baby as if it is necessary to show the love between each pair. Although these critters are depicted in mistily conceived natural habitats and are unclothed, they are human stand-ins through and through.

The greeting-card art and jokey rhymes work for the baby-shower market but not for the youngest readers. (Board book. 6 mos-2)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-1374-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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