A tropical action-filled adventure with heart.

THE EXPLORER

A crash-landing in the Amazon leaves four children stranded in the deep jungle.

They are Fred, a tall, white English boy, biracial Brazilian siblings Lila and 5-year-old Max, and a pale, white English girl, Constantia. Together they search for shelter and forage for edible fruits and larva. When Fred stumbles upon an old map, they decide to follow it to the X. In their handmade raft the crew travels down the river, through murky and clear waters, until they rediscover a lost city. Among the ruins they meet a mysterious man. He refuses to give his name, but will he refuse to help them get home? Rundell breathes character into the Amazon rain forest. The sounds, smells, flora, and fauna are vivid and tangible in the mind. The children are not as colorful, unfortunately. Fred, Lila, and Con give voice to their fears at every step, from climbing trees to facing down wild animals. Max has brief moments of wisdom in between bouts of tears or unbridled joy. The unnamed explorer does add some vibrancy to the book and commands attention despite the lush backdrop. His commentary on the effects of European imperialism is commendable although brief.

A tropical action-filled adventure with heart. (Adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1945-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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THE FIRST CAT IN SPACE ATE PIZZA

Will extragalactic rats eat the moon?

Can a cybernetic toenail clipper find a worthy purpose in the vast universe? Will the first feline astronaut ever get a slice of pizza? Read on. Reworked from the Live Cartoon series of homespun video shorts released on Instagram in 2020 but retaining that “we’re making this up as we go” quality, the episodic tale begins with the electrifying discovery that our moon is being nibbled away. Off blast one strong, silent, furry hero—“Meow”—and a stowaway robot to our nearest celestial neighbor to hook up with the imperious Queen of the Moon and head toward the dark side, past challenges from pirates on the Sea of Tranquility and a sphinx with a riddle (“It weighs a ton, but floats on air. / It’s bald but has a lot of hair.” The answer? “Meow”). They endure multiple close but frustratingly glancing encounters with pizza and finally deliver the malign, multiheaded Rat King and its toothy armies to a suitable fate. Cue the massive pizza party! Aside from one pirate captain and a general back on Earth, the human and humanoid cast in Harris’ loosely drawn cartoon panels, from the appropriately moon-faced queen on, is light skinned. Merch, music, and the original episodes are available on an associated website.

Epic lunacy. (Graphic science fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308408-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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