A fitting addition to the annals of doggy courage.


A stirring tribute to an abandoned dog who became a Coast Guard hero.

Inspired by true stories about a dog she actually met in the 1960s, Polacco’s dramatic tale features two nautical rescues in which Vera—an unofficial (at first) mascot on what is now called Coast Guard Island in the San Francisco Bay area—played significant, lifesaving roles. Midsized, flop-eared, and wholly winning, Vera is surrounded in the ink-and-marker illustrations with adoring sailors of diverse skin tone who eagerly adopt her as a puppy in an early illustration, though her reception by the commander is not so assured. With her nautical heroics she eventually even wins over the base’s crusty, cigar-chomping “Ol’ Man.” The author herself comes into view years later when, as a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals worker, she witnesses the old dog’s last days and formal military burial beneath a memorial of crossed anchors. Though some, maybe all, of the dialogue is invented (“ ‘Cast off, mates—lives hang in the balance!’ he bellowed”), a closing photo taken on a recent visit to the island attests to the memorial’s existence, and Polacco’s account of her search for it makes a mildly suspenseful coda.

A fitting addition to the annals of doggy courage. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4227-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Young environmentalists will appreciate seeing how facts can defy frenzy.


From the Orca Echoes series

Through the investigations of young Cricket and her friends, readers learn how to distinguish evidence of a cougar from other animals—and are briefed on cougar conservation and monitoring.

When Cricket and her friend Shilo notice a foul smell coming from piled-up snow and branches under a bush, Cricket suspects that a cougar has hidden its dinner. Her father, Warden McKay, proves her right when he shows up at her school, giving an emergency presentation about cougars. A cougar has been seen in their village, which is located inside Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta. After Cricket’s dad informs kids about some cougar facts, Principal Singh gives students a rare week off from school. It’s odd, then, that the warden’s children proceed to wander the village. However, McDowell’s books about Cricket typically favor facts about wildlife above all else, and, also typically, this one does not disappoint. It even clarifies one statistic as specifically Canadian. Overall, the dialogue is more natural than in Salamander Rescue (2016), if equally packed with information. The nine chapters and epilogue are accessible, entertaining, and empowering for young naturalists. The compelling plot twist: Anxious villagers are accusing cougars of a series of large-mammal crimes. Cricket, knowing that cougar relocation can be fatal, wants to ensure continued, occasional village visits by a family of tracked cougars. She devises a scheme to trap the real culprit. Illustrations are pleasant enough, depicting a largely white cast, though at least three characters have Asian surnames.

Young environmentalists will appreciate seeing how facts can defy frenzy. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2064-7

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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In the end, it’s hard not to love a main character who wears a one-man-band outfit to the library, in case he finds a very...


From the Claude series , Vol. 4

It’s difficult to describe the Claude books without using the word surreal. The new book in the series may be the sweetest surrealist children’s book ever published.

Claude’s best friend is a sock. Sir Bobblysock is very nattily dressed, and Smith gets a lot of mileage out of one joke, putting the sock in ever more absurd outfits. Sir Bobblysock wears pajamas, then earmuffs, and there’s a reference to a “glitzy leotard” he puts on before aerobics class. Most of the humor in the book comes from one basic premise: This would never, ever happen in real life. Sometimes the joke works. It’s very funny when a girl suggests Claude use a tea tray as a sled, and readers learn that “He always kept one in his beret—with a full tea set just in case there was a tea-based emergency.” It’s less funny to read about Sir Bobblysock’s bunion and his session in a heated foot spa. Instead of laughing, kids may say, “What’s a bunion?” or, “That would never, ever happen in real life.” Much too often, the book is perplexing instead of amusing. But there’s no denying that Claude is sweet and charming, and Sir Bobblysock looks fantastic in his checkered nightcap.  

In the end, it’s hard not to love a main character who wears a one-man-band outfit to the library, in case he finds a very exciting book. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-56145-805-9

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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