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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A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.

HORRIBLE HARRY SAYS GOODBYE

From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A long-running series reaches its closing chapters.

Having, as Kline notes in her warm valedictory acknowledgements, taken 30 years to get through second and third grade, Harry Spooger is overdue to move on—but not just into fourth grade, it turns out, as his family is moving to another town as soon as the school year ends. The news leaves his best friend, narrator “Dougo,” devastated…particularly as Harry doesn’t seem all that fussed about it. With series fans in mind, the author takes Harry through a sort of last-day-of-school farewell tour. From his desk he pulls a burned hot dog and other items that featured in past episodes, says goodbye to Song Lee and other classmates, and even (for the first time ever) leads Doug and readers into his house and memento-strewn room for further reminiscing. Of course, Harry isn’t as blasé about the move as he pretends, and eyes aren’t exactly dry when he departs. But hardly is he out of sight before Doug is meeting Mohammad, a new neighbor from Syria who (along with further diversifying a cast that began as mostly white but has become increasingly multiethnic over the years) will also be starting fourth grade at summer’s end, and planning a written account of his “horrible” buddy’s exploits. Finished illustrations not seen.

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47963-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale.

A TRUE HOME

From the Heartwood Hotel series , Vol. 1

An orphan mouse unexpectedly arrives at Heartwood Hotel, which she hopes will become the home she’s seeking.

Mona’s never had a home for long. After a storm forces her to flee her latest forest shelter, she discovers an enormous tree with a heart carved into its trunk. When Mona presses the heart, a door opens, and she enters the lobby of Heartwood Hotel, where small forest critters hibernate, eat, and celebrate in safety. The kindhearted badger proprietor, Mr. Heartwood, takes pity on homeless Mona, allowing her to stay for the fall to assist the maid, Tilly, a red squirrel. Grateful to be at Heartwood, Mona strives to prove herself despite Tilly’s unfriendly attitude. Mona’s clever approaches with a wounded songbird, an anxious skunk, and a wayward bear win Mr. Heartwood’s approval. But when Mona accidentally breaks a rule, Tilly convinces her she will be fired. As Mona secretly leaves Heartwood, she discovers marauding wolves planning to crash Heartwood’s Snow Festival and devises a daring plan to save the place she regards as home. Charming anthropomorphic characters, humorous mishaps, and outside threats add to the drama. Delicate pencil illustrations reinforce Heartwood’s cozy home theme. A sequel, The Greatest Gift, publishes simultaneously.

A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale. (Animal fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-3161-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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