A madcap, magical blend of fluff and other good stuff.

PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH

From the Not-So-Impossible Tales series , Vol. 3

Two kids and their 66 pugs enter a magical dog-sled race.

The Cakes in Space (2015) team returns for a ridiculous winter adventure story. When the ocean freezes solid right underneath their boat—and also freezes the boat itself—the Lucky Star’s crew faces tough decisions. Shen’s left behind with their cargo of 66 pugs. He finds a nearby town and learns that the frozen ocean’s caused by True Winter, a once-in-a-lifetime event heralding a race to the top of the world—the winner gets a wish from the Snowfather. Shen and Sika hitch the pugs to her elderly’s grandfather’s sled—he nearly won last True Winter, and Sika’s wish is for him to become well and live long enough to race again. The wacky competitors include a villainous Brit who loves to cheat (with tricks like the classic misleading detour sign). The obstacles on the race range from yetis (who have a noodle bar, because “Yeti Spaghetti Bar sounded too obvious”) to a Kraken. (McIntyre’s doofy, bug-eyed pugs are never more hilarious than in the glorious two-page spread where they battle the sea monster.) As the Snowfather can’t save Sika’s grandfather, the story’s silliness seamlessly transitions to musings about the immortality of stories and an old man’s positive end-of-life portrayal.

A madcap, magical blend of fluff and other good stuff. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-38796-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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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