CLASS CLOWN FISH

From the Squidding Around series , Vol. 2

Deep under the sea, a tempestuous squid must contend with his temper.

Following the events of Fish Feud (2020), Squizzard Silvershell, a hotheaded, tomato-red squid, is mad. After submitting his comics to a magazine contest, he learns he has lost, and his anger is festering. Deciding mischief will cheer him up, he pulls a prank on his teacher, Mr. Cuker. He is immediately sent to Principal Kraken and put in detention for a week, which causes him to miss the Coral Carnival. In detention, he and sea urchin Annie, a fellow student under punishment, help crossing guard Mr. Jaleel, an eel, clean the basement. Squizzard eventually comes to understand why his behavior was inappropriate, coming to a simply reasoned contrition. Sherry’s oceanic graphic offering is high on pep and alluring, vibrantly colored art, threading information about marine life throughout the narrative. This second volume in the series loses a bit of momentum, though; those who enjoyed Squizzard’s previous benign naughtiness may find his rapid repentance a bit hurried. Multiple plot threads are easy enough to follow but seem a bit cramped. Sherry’s illustrations are bright and expressive, with more flashy colors than a well-stocked aquarium carrying the short chapters; economically worded panels keep the pages moving along swimmingly. Quibbles aside, with its buoyant pacing and intriguing facts, it offers much to appreciate. Further facts on coral and instructions on making a newsletter follow the story.

A fun, quick dip. (Graphic fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-63670-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Gentle, encouraging, witty fantasy that may soothe readers suffering from climate anxiety.

THE GOLDEN SWIFT

From the Silver Arrow series , Vol. 2

Children with magical talking steam trains are thrilled by their clever new plan to rescue endangered animals.

Eleven-year-old Kate absolutely adores her secret job—helping animals in need by using the magical locomotive that was a gift from her billionaire wizard uncle. Kate loves riding the Silver Arrow with Uncle Herbert; her brother, Tom; and the talking animals they escort to safe places. But now Uncle Herbert is missing, 9-year-old Tom seems more interested in hapkido than their supernatural train, and Kate’s struggling socially and academically thanks to her eco-anxiety. No matter how many animals she helps, no matter how many adults proclaim that climate change is a critical issue, the environment keeps getting worse. One night Kate discovers another train driving on the magical railroad: The Golden Swift is conducted by her classmate Jag, who thinks rescuing stranded creatures isn’t sufficiently radical. When Kate joins him, she feels more inspired and more righteous than ever before. This time, she’s actually making the world better! Kate’s unhappy discoveries of unintended consequences and the moral complexities of her activism are softened by humor. The snarky banter of the talking locomotive is an understated delight, as is the train constructed with, among others, candy and ice cream cars, an invisible car, and a dojo car. Kate and Tom are White; Jag is described as having dark skin and black hair and possibly being Indian. Charming illustrations enhance the text.

Gentle, encouraging, witty fantasy that may soothe readers suffering from climate anxiety. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-28354-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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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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