BLESS THIS MOUSE

Hildegarde, practical and religious leader of all 219 church mice residing in St. Bartholemew’s, may be an “old lady,” but she handles threats with aplomb. “[I]ncessant reproduction” and energetic activity lead to exposure of their hidden existence. Fearing an annihilating Great X, Hildegarde and her helpers nibble away the phone book’s “x” page so the priest can’t make the appointment; when this fails (because Extermination actually starts with “e”), Hildegarde savvily charges 52 mice to each cover a deadly Glue Board with a playing card from Father Murphy’s solitaire deck. Then St. Francis’ feast day arrives, when cats are welcome (yikes). Sending her flock into hiding, Hildegarde boldly adorns herself in a gumdrop hat and walks majestically down the church aisle—in plain sight—during the pet blessings, leaving Father Murphy no choice but to tenderly bless this mouse. Like the young readers of this book, the mice glide unbothered and uncomprehending past the occasional mature reference (Alcoholics Anonymous and “X-rated DVDs,” mentioned without illumination), though they do understand Lowry’s specialized, high-level vocabulary (alb, chasuble, sacrosanct—they are church mice, after all). This gently Christian piece with Rohmann’s earnest pencil illustrations will please talking-animal fans. (Animal fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-39009-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2011

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With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after.

RISE OF THE EARTH DRAGON

From the Dragon Masters series , Vol. 1

Drake has been selected by the king to serve as a Dragon Master, quite a change for an 8-year-old farmer boy.

The dragons are a secret, and the reason King Roland has them is a mystery, but what is clear is that the Dragon Stone has identified Drake as one of the rare few children who have a special connection with dragons and the ability to serve as a trainer. Drake’s dragon is a long brown creature with, at first, no particular talents that Drake can identify. He calls the dragon Worm. It isn’t long before Drake begins to realize he has a very strong connection with Worm and can share what seem to be his dragon’s thoughts. After one of the other Dragon Masters decides to illicitly take the dragons outside, disaster strikes. The cave they are passing through collapses, blocking the passageway, and then Worm’s special talent becomes evident. The first of a new series of early chapter books, this entry is sure to attract fans. Brief chapters, large print, lots of action, attractive illustrations in every spread, including a maplike panorama, an enviable protagonist—who wouldn’t want to be a Dragon Master?—all combine to make an entertaining read.

With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-64624-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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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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