Sumptuous visuals and intriguing ideas will leave readers hungry for more time in the Snowlands.

SNOWLANDS

BOOK ONE A BLOOD MOON

A young wolf strikes out on her own in this first installment of a graphic-novel series.

Meroz’s work opens with the line, “The Snowlands are a dangerous place for little creatures,” and at its story’s center is a young wolf cub named Feba, who’s unquestionably in danger herself. She’s orphaned soon after her birth and ostracized by most of her pack for her white fur, which wolves see as a bad omen. The harsh winter has resulted in a severe shortage of sheep in the area, which has left the pack hungry and desperate for a scapegoat. Despite appeals to reason from her late mother’s allies, Feba finds herself on the run, cast out of the only home she’s ever known; soon, she’s caught in a double-crossing lynx’s trap alongside a moody snow leopard called Usha and a comical wild cat named Batu (which is also the only word he ever utters). The trio narrowly escapes several harrowing incidents together, largely thanks to Feba’s courage. Despite the fact that Usha insists that “leopards are always alone,” she reluctantly allows Feba and Batu to tag along with her on her personal mission: to find the all-knowing and mysterious Seeress, who she hopes will help her to find her own lost cub. As the unlikely trio make their way through the wintry, mountainous terrain, they encounter bears, pandas, crocodiles, monkeys, and badgers, some of whom are more deadly than others. Meanwhile, Feba’s pack continues to face misfortune as a mysterious force kidnaps their cubs and endangers their best warriors. The two plotlines dovetail in a surprising final conflict in which Feba must prove her worth.

Meroz’s background as an animator shines through in this graphic novel’s page-turning action sequences, and artist Fogel and colorist Comodo use their considerable skills to turn desolate landscapes into rich, engrossing images. The numerous adversaries that the main trio of characters encounter are truly sinister, and they’re just the right amount of scary for middle-grade readers. That said, the youngest of those readers may be frightened by some of the work’s more intense and bloody imagery. As an outsider with outsized courage, Feba is a classic, lovable protagonist, and it’s easy to root for her from the start. In the end, though, it’s Usha, the snow leopard, who has the most moving character arc, as her quest to find her lost son becomes a bittersweet story of accepting the world’s natural order. In the second half of the book, Meroz introduces an element of mysticism and a surprising twist on the order of the food chain, but he may have bitten off more than these critters can chew over the course of a single story. His ideas are extremely clever, but their ingenuity gets a bit lost in the final act’s rush of reveals, incantations, and explained motivations. Still, Meroz successfully delivers intriguing characters and necessary worldbuilding for a series that promises to be as likable as its lead character.

Sumptuous visuals and intriguing ideas will leave readers hungry for more time in the Snowlands.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 210

Publisher: manuscript

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals.

HOW TO SPEAK DOLPHIN

Is dolphin-assisted therapy so beneficial to patients that it’s worth keeping a wild dolphin captive?

Twelve-year-old Lily has lived with her emotionally distant oncologist stepfather and a succession of nannies since her mother died in a car accident two years ago. Nannies leave because of the difficulty of caring for Adam, Lily’s severely autistic 4-year-old half brother. The newest, Suzanne, seems promising, but Lily is tired of feeling like a planet orbiting the sun Adam. When she meets blind Zoe, who will attend the same private middle school as Lily in the fall, Lily’s happy to have a friend. However, Zoe’s take on the plight of the captive dolphin, Nori, used in Adam’s therapy opens Lily’s eyes. She knows she must use her influence over her stepfather, who is consulting on Nori’s treatment for cancer (caused by an oil spill), to free the animal. Lily’s got several fine lines to walk, as she works to hold onto her new friend, convince her stepfather of the rightness of releasing Nori, and do what’s best for Adam. In her newest exploration of animal-human relationships, Rorby’s lonely, mature heroine faces tough but realistic situations. Siblings of children on the spectrum will identify with Lily. If the tale flirts with sentimentality and some of the characters are strident in their views, the whole never feels maudlin or didactic.

Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-67605-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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RED-EYED TREE FROG

Bishop’s spectacular photographs of the tiny red-eyed tree frog defeat an incidental text from Cowley (Singing Down the Rain, 1997, etc.). The frog, only two inches long, is enormous in this title; it appears along with other nocturnal residents of the rain forests of Central America, including the iguana, ant, katydid, caterpillar, and moth. In a final section, Cowley explains how small the frog is and aspects of its life cycle. The main text, however, is an afterthought to dramatic events in the photos, e.g., “But the red-eyed tree frog has been asleep all day. It wakes up hungry. What will it eat? Here is an iguana. Frogs do not eat iguanas.” Accompanying an astonishing photograph of the tree frog leaping away from a boa snake are three lines (“The snake flicks its tongue. It tastes frog in the air. Look out, frog!”) that neither advance nor complement the action. The layout employs pale and deep green pages and typeface, and large jewel-like photographs in which green and red dominate. The combination of such visually sophisticated pages and simplistic captions make this a top-heavy, unsatisfying title. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-87175-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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