A warm invitation to visitors wheeled or in boots: “Come on over, rovers!” (Informational picture book. 6-9)

MARS' FIRST FRIENDS

COME ON OVER, ROVERS!

Two unexpected pets, Spirit and Opportunity, perk up the bored, lonely fourth planet.

In the spirit of their Moon’s First Friends: How the Moon Met the Astronauts From Apollo 11 (2019), Hill and Paganelli send a lonely Mars to his father, the Sun, for a pet. Denied (Pluto is the whole family’s pet), the planet goes from one anthropomorphic solar sibling to another on a seemingly fruitless quest for companionship. This culminates in the violent and exciting arrival of two speedy “little spacecrafts” sent from Earth as a family gift. Fondly watching the puppylike rovers trundle about his orange surface collecting rocks, playing in a sandstorm, and snuggling together for the night, Mars both promises to make them a good home and looks forward to the arrival of future “pets.” Smiling faces on all the planets, moons, and rovers in view—which are otherwise rendered with reasonable accuracy—give the outing a cozy tone overall. Better yet, though the rovers’ missions get barely a nod in the main narrative, a substantial epilogue fills in the blanks with basic facts about the solar system in general and Mars in particular, plus profiles of NASA and the entire company of Mars rovers from 1997’s Sojourner to 2012’s still-active Curiosity (with a note about an unnamed, upcoming “new pet”).

A warm invitation to visitors wheeled or in boots: “Come on over, rovers!” (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-0518-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably...

LOST AND FOUND

A lad finds a penguin on his doorstep and resolutely sets out to return it in this briefly told import. 

Eventually, he ends up rowing it all the way back to Antarctica, braving waves and storms, filling in the time by telling it stories. But then, feeling lonely after he drops his silent charge off, he belatedly realizes that it was probably lonely too, and turns back to find it. Seeing Jeffers’s small, distant figures in wide, simply brushed land- and sea-scapes, young viewers will probably cotton to the penguin’s feelings before the boy himself does—but all’s well that ends well, and the reunited companions are last seen adrift together in the wide blue sea. 

Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably with this—slightly—less offbeat friendship tale. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-24503-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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