LEADING LADIES

Megan Merrill would be satisfied to do any kind of solo for her fourth-grade class, even a polka, until her teacher and a musical-theater specialist team up to organize a musical version of The Wizard of Oz. There’s a fierce competition for the part of Dorothy, complicated by her best friend at camp vying for it, but Megan’s creativity and personality win her the part. Though Megan is a fully developed, likable character and is exciting, not everything is. Her family and friends are foils supporting her; their motivations are dim. When the Merrills’ new family dog, Solo, gets on stage as Toto, his ability to bark in rhythm to a comic musical routine is not believable despite intense short-term practice. Other characters, such as Cindy, who’ve been developed in the series, are shadowy here, so reading the series in order is recommended. It’s Megan and her feelings about being deaf in a mainstream world that offer insight to the majority of readers: Those who are hearing will understand more of the complexities of growing up deaf in a hearing society, and those who are deaf will recognize themselves. This rare glimpse into the life of a child growing up deaf is an invaluable contribution to juvenile fiction. Seeing Megan again in print as a fifth-grader would be a pleasure. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-689-86987-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2007

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NO MATTER WHAT

Small, a very little fox, needs some reassurance from Large in the unconditional love department. If he is grim and grumpy, will he still be loved? “ ‘Oh, Small,’ said Large, ‘grumpy or not, I’ll always love you, no matter what.’ “ So it goes, in a gentle rhyme, as Large parries any number of questions that for Small are very telling. What if he were to turn into a young bear, or squishy bug, or alligator? Would a mother want to hug and hold these fearsome animals? Yes, yes, answers Large. “But does love wear out? Does it break or bend? Can you fix it or patch it? Does it mend?” There is comfort in Gliori’s pages, but it is a result of repetition and not the imagery; this is a quick fix, not an enduring one, but it eases Small’s fears and may well do the same for children. (Picture book. 2-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-202061-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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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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