Cuteness can’t prop up this sagging sophomore slump.

THE BIG RACE HOME

From the Revver the Speedway Squirrel series , Vol. 2

A race car–loving squirrel learns to temper his impulsive streak.

Following 2020’s Revver the Speedway Squirrel, readers are reunited with Revver, the pit crew squirrel. He loves the action and bustle of the racetrack and all the busyness that surrounds it, but he especially loves his human friends, Bill and Joe. When the race team moves circuits, though, Revver has a tough time exercising patience, causing a few catastrophic crashes and then missing his flight with the team. Separated from his humans, he must rely on the goodness of others to help him find his way back to them. Faced with a perilous journey during which he hikes along a treacherous highway, stows away on a crowded train, and encounters a conniving cat, can Revver reunite with his people before the next big race? Rinker’s tale is filled with abundant squirrel cuteness and a smattering of giggle-inducing poop and puke scenes but falls somewhat flat, mired in its own didacticism with its heavy-handed insistence on patience and kindness. Revver’s observations of the world come across as mundane, favoring telling over showing. The text utilizes a plethora of stylistic conventions—words in all caps, bold emphases, italics, and different fonts—which combined may prove too distracting and might have worked better in a shorter-form chapter book. Human characters are presumed White.

Cuteness can’t prop up this sagging sophomore slump. (Animal adventure. 8-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0367-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one.

THE WILD ROBOT ESCAPES

Roz, a robot who learned to adapt to life among wild creatures in her first outing, seeks to return to the island she calls home.

Brown’s sequel to The Wild Robot (2016) continues an intriguing premise: What would happen to a robot after challenges in an unexpected environment cause it to evolve in unusual ways? As this book opens, Roz is delivered to a farm where she helps a widower with two young children run a dairy operation that has been in his family for generations. Roz reveals her backstory to the cows, who are supportive of the robot’s determination to return to the island and to her adopted son, the goose Brightbill. The cows, the children, and finally Brightbill himself come to Roz’s aid. The focus on Roz’s escape from human control results in a somewhat solemn and episodic narrative, with an extended journey and chase after Roz leaves the farm. Dr. Molovo, a literal deus ex machina, appears near the end of the story to provide a means of rescue. She is Roz’s designer/creator, and, intrigued by the robot’s adaptation and evolution but cognizant of the threat that those achievements might represent to humans, she assists Roz and Brightbill in their quest. The satisfactory (if inevitable-feeling) conclusion may prompt discussion about individual agency and determination, whether for robots or people.

If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38204-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet!

WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE

From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 1

Ryan Hart is navigating the fourth grade and all its challenges with determination.

Her mom named her Ryan because it means “king,” and she wanted Ryan to feel powerful every time she heard her name; Ryan knows it means she is a leader. So when changes occur or disaster strikes, budding chef Ryan does her best to find the positive and “make sunshine.” When her dad is laid off from the post office, the family must make adjustments that include moving into a smaller house, selling their car, and changing how they shop for groceries. But Ryan gets to stay at Vernon Elementary, and her mom still finds a way to get her the ingredients she needs to practice new recipes. Her older brother, Ray, can be bossy, but he finds little ways to support her, especially when she is down—as does the whole family. Each episodic chapter confronts Ryan with a situation; intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching, they should be familiar and accessible to readers, as when Ryan fumbles her Easter speech despite careful practice. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and Watson continues to bring visibility to both Portland, Oregon, generally and its Black community specifically, making another wonderful contribution that allows Black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love.

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0056-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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