A waggish tale with a serious (and timely) theme.

KATT VS. DOGG

An age-old rivalry is reluctantly put aside when two young vacationers are lost in the wilderness.

Anthropomorphic—in body if definitely not behavior—Dogg Scout Oscar and pampered Molly Hissleton stray from their separate camps, meet by chance in a trackless magic forest, and almost immediately recognize that their only chance of survival, distasteful as the notion may be, lies in calling a truce. Patterson and Grabenstein really work the notion here that cooperation is better than prejudice founded on ignorance and habit, interspersing explicit exchanges on the topic while casting the squabbling pair with complementary abilities that come out as they face challenges ranging from finding food to escaping such predators as a mountain lion and a pack of vicious “weaselboars.” By the time they cross a wide river (on a raft steered by “Old Jim,” an otter whose homespun utterances are generally cribbed from Mark Twain—an uneasy reference) back to civilization, the two are BFFs. But can that friendship survive the return, with all the social and familial pressures to resume the old enmity? A climactic cage-match–style confrontation before a worked-up multispecies audience provides the answer. In the illustrations (not seen in finished form) López plops wide-eyed animal heads atop clothed, more or less human forms and adds dialogue balloons for punchlines.

A waggish tale with a serious (and timely) theme. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-41156-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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A kid adventurer with a disability makes this steampunk offering stand out.

BRIGHTSTORM

From the Brightstorm series , Vol. 1

Orphaned twins, an adventurer dad lost to an ice monster, and an airship race around the world.

In Lontown, 12-year-old twins Arthur and Maudie learn that their explorer father has gone missing on his quest to reach South Polaris, the crew of his sky-ship apparently eaten by monsters. As he’s accused of sabotage, their father’s property is forfeit. The disgraced twins are sent off to live in a garret in a scene straight out of an Edwardian novel à la A Little Princess. Maudie has the consolation of her engineering skills, but all Arthur wants is to be an adventurer like his father. A chance to join Harriet Culpepper’s journey to South Polaris might offer excitement and let him clear his father’s name—if only he can avoid getting eaten by intelligent ice monsters. Though some steampunk set dressing is appropriately over-the-top (such as a flying house, thinly depicted but charming), adaptive tools for Arthur’s disability are wonderfully realistic. His iron arm is a standard, sometimes painful passive prosthesis. The crew adapts the airship galley for Arthur’s needs, even creating a spiked chopping board. Off the ship, Arthur and Maudie meet people and animals in vignettes that are appealingly rendered but slight. Harriet teaches the white twins respect for the cultures they encounter on these travels, though they are never more than observers of non-Lontowners’ different ways.

A kid adventurer with a disability makes this steampunk offering stand out. (Steampunk. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-324-00564-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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This oblique homage to a now-creaky classic is lit by friendships, heroic feats, and exceptional art.

KENNY & THE BOOK OF BEASTS

From the Kenny & the Dragon series

A long-eared young hero takes on a witch bent on trapping rare legendary creatures in a magical book.

Not so much a pastiche of E. Nesbit’s short story “Book of Beasts” as an original novel with cribbed elements, this adventuresome outing regathers and expands the animal cast of DiTerlizzi’s 2008 reworking of The Reluctant Dragon (titled Kenny & the Dragon) for a fresh challenge. As if coping with a dozen baby sisters and tending the bookshop of his questing mentor, Sir George E. Badger, aren’t hard enough, Kenny Rabbit feels abandoned by his best friend, dessert-loving dragon Grahame—who happily recognizes the supposedly mythical manticore that springs from the pages of a grimoire as an acquaintance from olden days. Avid to collect magical creatures of all sorts, the book’s owner, sinister opossum Eldritch Nesbit, tempts Kenny into an ill-considered bargain. But once he sees not only the manticore, but Grahame too snapped up, Kenny joins allies, notably his redoubtable crush Charlotte the squirrel, in a rumbustious rescue that also frees a host of unicorns and other long-vanished marvels. Aside from the odd griffin or al-mi’raj (a horned rabbit from Persian lore and an outlier in an otherwise Eurocentric cast), everyone in the lively, accomplished illustrations, from Kenny’s impossibly adorable sibs on, sports amusingly anthropomorphic dress and body language.

This oblique homage to a now-creaky classic is lit by friendships, heroic feats, and exceptional art. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4169-8316-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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