THE FIELD OF THE DOGS

Talking dogs and nasty bullies make odd yet compatible bedfellows in Paterson’s intriguing and eccentric new novel. Josh, who was forced to move from Virginia to Vermont when his mother remarried, hates the cold, snowy climate and is ill at ease with his new stepfather and baby brother. But his major problem is that he’s being bullied by his neighbor Wes, a big kid who “grabbed him and stuffed snow down his jacket.” While searching for his dog Manch in the woods, Josh hears “wild, not quite human laughter.” He stops to investigate and what he discovers amazes him. Manch is having a real conversation with several doggy buddies. Hiding behind a tree, Josh eavesdrops and learns that these pooches are being tormented by a pack of larger dogs who call themselves the River Gang. Meanwhile, in the human world, Wes continues to persecute Josh. The story of Josh and Manch intersect when Wes tells Josh that he must bring him the collar from a huge Weimaraner, who happens to be none other than the biggest, meanest dog in the River Gang. Paterson smoothly and proficiently cranks up the pressure for both boy and dog as Josh struggles to solve their interconnected problem. The ending, despite some credibility problems, is satisfying and rather touching, though this book lacks the emotional fire and complexity of Paterson’s best work. Still, an imaginative blend of a what-if (dogs could talk) and a problem novel (on how to tame a bully). (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: March 31, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-029474-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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RED-EYED TREE FROG

Bishop’s spectacular photographs of the tiny red-eyed tree frog defeat an incidental text from Cowley (Singing Down the Rain, 1997, etc.). The frog, only two inches long, is enormous in this title; it appears along with other nocturnal residents of the rain forests of Central America, including the iguana, ant, katydid, caterpillar, and moth. In a final section, Cowley explains how small the frog is and aspects of its life cycle. The main text, however, is an afterthought to dramatic events in the photos, e.g., “But the red-eyed tree frog has been asleep all day. It wakes up hungry. What will it eat? Here is an iguana. Frogs do not eat iguanas.” Accompanying an astonishing photograph of the tree frog leaping away from a boa snake are three lines (“The snake flicks its tongue. It tastes frog in the air. Look out, frog!”) that neither advance nor complement the action. The layout employs pale and deep green pages and typeface, and large jewel-like photographs in which green and red dominate. The combination of such visually sophisticated pages and simplistic captions make this a top-heavy, unsatisfying title. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-87175-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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DORY STORY

Who is next in the ocean food chain? Pallotta has a surprising answer in this picture book glimpse of one curious boy. Danny, fascinated by plankton, takes his dory and rows out into the ocean, where he sees shrimp eating those plankton, fish sand eels eating shrimp, mackerel eating fish sand eels, bluefish chasing mackerel, tuna after bluefish, and killer whales after tuna. When an enormous humpbacked whale arrives on the scene, Danny’s dory tips over and he has to swim for a large rock or become—he worries’someone’s lunch. Surreal acrylic illustrations in vivid blues and red extend the story of a small boy, a small boat, and a vast ocean, in which the laws of the food chain are paramount. That the boy has been bathtub-bound during this entire imaginative foray doesn’t diminish the suspense, and the facts Pallotta presents are solidly researched. A charming fish tale about the one—the boy—that got away. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-88106-075-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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