In this third of a series, Marco, Polo, and the other feline members of the Club of Mysteries take it upon themselves to protect the much-loved Carlotta’s five kittens from the dangers posed by both four-legged and two-legged predators, and to teach the kittens the skills they will need to survive in the cold, cruel world. And cruel it is. There is a continuous stream of dire warnings of peril and graphic descriptions of terrible deaths that may befall them. Even a discussion of the lifecycle of stars concludes that all we see are the ghosts of dead stars. This book is almost unrelentingly depressing. Life is real; life is earnest! Strangely, in the midst of all this reality, there is an incongruously cute and fanciful explanation of cats’ procreation. At the end all the kittens jump into the yard of an old-age home and are instantly adopted. This surprisingly happy conclusion is entirely at odds with the tone of the book and Naylor seems to present it as an effort to reassure or placate the young reader. Black ink drawings aptly depict the action, concentrating on the darker moments. Here, too, the last illustration of the happy ending is quite different in tone and style from all the others. A disappointing effort from a usually dependable author. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-689-83269-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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Reports of children requesting rewrites of The Reluctant Dragon are rare at best, but this new version may be pleasing to young or adult readers less attuned to the pleasures of literary period pieces. Along with modernizing the language—“Hmf! This Beowulf fellow had a severe anger management problem”—DiTerlizzi dials down the original’s violence. The red-blooded Boy is transformed into a pacifistic bunny named Kenny, St. George is just George the badger, a retired knight who owns a bookstore, and there is no actual spearing (or, for that matter, references to the annoyed knight’s “Oriental language”) in the climactic show-fight with the friendly, crème-brulée-loving dragon Grahame. In look and spirit, the author’s finely detailed drawings of animals in human dress are more in the style of Lynn Munsinger than, for instance, Ernest Shepard or Michael Hague. They do, however, nicely reflect the bright, informal tone of the text. A readable, if denatured, rendition of a faded classic. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4169-3977-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2008

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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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