Absurd and wacky but also fast-paced and good-humored. Ho, ho, HO! (Fantasy. 7-10)

HAPPY HOWLIDAYS

A MIDDLE SCHOOL STORY

From the Dog Diaries series , Vol. 2

Following series opener Dog Diaries (2018), Junior, a dog of huge enthusiasm but not much sense, is back for a second romp with his ever so tolerant owner, “Ruff.”

It’s time for the howlidays, including Fangsgiving and, of course, Critter-Mess-Day, the one that features the mysterious Saint Lick! Junior’s take on these events¾all of them new to him since he’s recently been adopted from the pet shelter—is pretty funny. The story consists nearly entirely of his lively encounters with novel holiday-related stuff and his doggy interpretation of what he discovers, quite likely to appeal to children’s funny bones. All of this silliness is presented in first-dog narration in diary format, in large, clear print on pages that overflow with rollicking illustrations that are perfectly matched to the text. There is little in the way of plot or character development, just a series of silly episodes climaxing in Junior’s extremely thorough booby-trapping of the entire house to fend off Saint Lick since he’s heard the jolly fellow leaves “presents” all over the world—and everyone knows what those are: poop! Although his efforts leave the house flooded, toilet paper strewn everywhere and an angry family, Junior is proud of his accomplishment: no “presents.” Ruff (actually Rafe) is Armenian. The tale concludes with a helpful glossary of Doglish terms and several pages of games and drawing instruction.

Absurd and wacky but also fast-paced and good-humored. Ho, ho, HO! (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-45618-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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DONUTS AND DANGER

From the Max Meow series , Vol. 2

Max and Mindy are back in action and must face old foes and nefarious new look-alikes.

Max Meow, feline resident of Kittyopolis, is secretly the superhero Cat Crusader, and he’s excited to no longer work solo. His BSFF (Best Science Friend Forever), brown-skinned human Mindy, has gained powers and created her own superhero persona, Science Kitty. Problem is, she puts so much pressure on herself to be perfect that she’s too scared to be a hero out in public. When havoc is wreaked at Food Fest, followed by a series of robberies, not only is the world of donut sales in peril, but the whole city is in danger. Old and new villains team up, and Cat Crusader will need Science Kitty’s skills—even if they are imperfect—in order to save the day and the donuts. This book tries to do a lot and isn’t always successful: An overabundance of plot points and characters makes it lack focus and overall cohesion. The more the story progresses, the messier and more jumbled it becomes, bogging down the pace. The lesson about the pitfalls of perfectionism does add some depth, and the brightly colored cartoon art plus the combination of silliness, science, and superpowers make this tale inviting. Fans of the first book may enjoy spending more time with these cool cats, but hopefully their next adventure will be smoother.

Overstuffed. (drawing instructions) (Graphic fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12108-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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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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