Cat lovers will be sorry to see Anton and Cecil suffer indifference and outright abuse from sailors and pirates, as well as...

CATS AT SEA

From the Anton and Cecil series , Vol. 1

This collaboration by a respected author of literary fiction and her niece, an educator and writer of poetry for children, is an odd mix of talking cats, oceangoing adventure and mystical events.

Slender, gray Anton and large, black Cecil are not much alike, but, readers are told, the brothers love one another and enjoy their mostly peaceful life as stray cats in a seaside town. Pensive Anton enjoys listening to the sailors singing in the local saloon; adventurous Cecil prefers to pace along the dock, seeking sustenance and occasionally spending a day on board a fishing boat. Their low-key lives change dramatically when Anton is taken to sea against his will, and Cecil sets out to find him and bring him home. The plot is carefully woven, the vocabulary rich and distinctive, and the characters engaging (particularly Hieronymus, a hilariously loquacious mouse). Unfortunately, the overall effect is confusing rather than charming. The decision not to explain a key turning point may leave readers perplexed and even troubled, while other details fall just a bit too short of the fantastic to seem truly magical or rely on exceedingly unlikely coincidences.

Cat lovers will be sorry to see Anton and Cecil suffer indifference and outright abuse from sailors and pirates, as well as facing other dangers, but they’re still not likely to care overmuch about the eventual resolution. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61620-246-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world.

THEY THREW US AWAY

From the Teddies Saga series , Vol. 1

The journey to find a child becomes an existential quest for an abandoned teddy bear.

Buddy is not just any stuffed bear, but a blue Furrington Teddy with a Real Silk Heart. So why did he wake up in a landfill with other Furringtons of varying hues? A more pressing matter, however, is escaping Trashland and its murderous gulls and bulldozers. Yearning to connect with a child and achieve a state of peaceful Forever Sleep, Buddy and his new friends of differing temperaments and gifts set out on a harrowing journey through the city to find children who will want them. As they encounter other Furringtons in disarray, this opener in The Teddies Saga series becomes a mystery about why these teddies are being harmed in the first place. While the visceral narrative follows the teddy troupe’s adventurous challenges and survival, its focus is on Buddy’s inner struggles as he ponders identity, leadership, and other existential dilemmas. Kraus doesn’t shy away from anger, fear, death, and other dark subjects; instead they become opportunities for growth in difficult environments. Cai’s intense, slightly nightmarish grayscale illustrations add immeasurably to the text. Reminiscent of Watership Down in theme and structure, the novel’s intermittent teddy creation stories also become parables of a moral code and extend the epic story arc. A cliffhanger ending sets the scene for the next installment.

Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-22440-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A richly atmospheric page-turner—readers will eagerly anticipate the forthcoming sequel.

THE CLOCKWORK CROW

From the Clockwork Crow series

Young Seren Rhys stands on the cusp of a new life. Unfortunately for her, the train to her new life is late.

Following the death of her aunt, who saved her from her 12-year stay at the orphanage, she receives word that her godfather, Capt. Arthur Jones, will take her in. Seren spends her wait dreaming of the Jones family and their surely bustling, welcoming manor, Plas-y-Fran in Wales. An encounter with a mysterious man and his more mysterious wrapped parcel (containing the eponymous mechanical bird) leaves Seren reeling, and the mysteries multiply when she arrives at Plas-y-Fran. The place is shuttered and cold, nearly deserted but for a few fearful, oppressively unforthcoming servants. The captain and his wife are away; of their young son, Tomos, there is neither sign nor sound. With the Crow as her only, if reluctant, ally, Seren soon finds herself enmeshed in mayhem and magic that may prove lethal. In her characteristic style, Fisher crafts an elaborate fantasy from deceptively simple language. Seren is a sharp, saucy narrator whose constant puzzlement at others’ consternation over her impertinence provides running amusement. Supporting characters are fascinating if ambiguous players, not so much poorly drawn as poorly revealed, perhaps casualties of the quick pace. The deadened manor, however, provides the perfect backdrop for preternatural forces. Characters are presumed white.

A richly atmospheric page-turner—readers will eagerly anticipate the forthcoming sequel. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1491-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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