BLACK STAR, BRIGHT DAWN

When her father's injuries force him to drop out of the annual dog-sled race from Anchorage to Nome—the 1179-mile Iditarod—Bright Dawn takes his place. Bright Dawn (18) hunts with her father till an experience adrift on an ice floe makes him so fearful that his family moves inland to Ikuma, a checkpoint on the Iditarod. There. as a gifted dog-handler, he is drafted for the great race; and sponsors agree, out of need, to accept his daughter as his substitute—she has been helping him train and has a special relationship with Black Star, the independent-minded lead dog. At Anchorage, Bright Dawn is befriended by Oteg, an experienced racer whose nine daughters spurn his advice—Bright Dawn agrees to accept at least some of it. The narrative focuses on their race together—the strategy of holding back at the onset and of timing rest periods, building igloos, helping other competitors; the dangers come from the rough, frigid terrain and encounters with wolves and moose, so that (at least for these participants) cooperation for survival comes to outweigh the race itself. Still, by taking some of Otek's advice, balanced by Black Star's instincts and her own sense, Bright Dawn is running first at a crucial point; and though she comes far from winning, her moral victory is satisfying. O'Dell's focus on Bright Dawn intensifies the drama of her struggle against the wilderness and its lesson in self-reliance; it may also leave readers wondering how different the other racers' experiences might be. As she returns to her own father, even Otek vanishes—where did he place? Still, readers will share a splendid, vividly written adventure with Bright Dawn; perhaps that is enough.

Pub Date: April 1, 1988

ISBN: 0547053193

Page Count: 108

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1988

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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face.

THE BAD GUYS

From the Bad Guys series , Vol. 1

Four misunderstood villains endeavor to turn over a new leaf…or a new rap sheet in Blabey's frenzied romp.

As readers open the first page of this early chapter book, Mr. Wolf is right there to greet them, bemoaning his reputation. "Just because I've got BIG POINTY TEETH and RAZOR-SHARP CLAWS and I occasionally like to dress up like an OLD LADY, that doesn't mean… / … I'm a BAD GUY." To prove this very fact, Mr. Wolf enlists three equally slandered friends into the Good Guys Club: Mr. Snake (aka the Chicken Swallower), Mr. Piranha (aka the Butt Biter), and Mr. Shark (aka Jaws). After some convincing from Mr. Wolf, the foursome sets off determined to un-smirch their names (and reluctantly curbing their appetites). Although these predators find that not everyone is ready to be at the receiving end of their helpful efforts, they use all their Bad Guy know-how to manage a few hilarious good deeds. Blabey has hit the proverbial nail on the head, kissed it full on the mouth, and handed it a stick of Acme dynamite. With illustrations that startle in their manic comedy and deadpan direct address and with a narrative that follows four endearingly sardonic characters trying to push past (sometimes successfully) their fear-causing natures, this book instantly joins the classic ranks of Captain Underpants and The Stinky Cheese Man.

We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-91240-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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