Engrossing and engaging—a fabulous hero’s quest.

BRAVER

A WOMBAT'S TALE

A young wombat faces danger and uncertainty in this anthropomorphic animal fantasy.

Lola, a wombat joey, lives in the Northern Forest with her wombat parents. But unlike other wombats, Lola loves to talk and is not content with the quiet, stable life of foraging during the night and sleeping during the day. One day, sneaking out of her burrow home to explore, she encounters a messenger-platypus who delivers to her a secret message—but Lola has no idea what it means. Heading back to the burrow, Lola is horrified to discover that Tassie devils have rounded up all the wombats and are carrying them off in a large cage. Lola sees her parents through the bars, and her mother tells her to “Find your uncle!” before they are taken away. As Lola sets off for the royal city of Dore to look for her uncle, she befriends Melvin, a fastidious rat, and Blue, a baby penguin—sterling secondary characters whose quirky personalities add lively originality and exquisite freshness to the story. In the best hero’s-journey way, Lola confronts her fears and learns her strengths. The richly imagined, tightly woven, and deliciously nuanced plot is inhabited by animals that live in the real world of Tasmania, and readers will also discover echidnas, pygmy possums, and swamp water rats as they go.

Engrossing and engaging—a fabulous hero’s quest. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21991-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Imprint

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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A multicultural title with obvious appeal for animal-loving middle graders.

TIGER BOY

When a Bengali boy finds and saves a tiger cub from a man who wants to sell her on the black market, he realizes that the schoolwork he resents could lead to a career protecting his beloved Sunderbans island home.

When the not-yet-weaned cub escapes from a nearby reserve, Neel and many of his neighbors join the search. But some are in the pay of greedy Gupta, a shady entrepreneur who’s recently settled in their community. Even Neel’s father is tempted by Gupta’s money, although he knows that Gupta doesn’t plan to take the cub back to the refuge. Neel and his sister use the boy’s extensive knowledge of the island’s swampy interior to find the cub’s hiding place and lure it out so it can be returned to its mother. The Kolkota-born author visited the remote Sunderbans in the course of her research. She lovingly depicts this beautiful tropical forest in the context of Neel’s efforts to find the cub and his reluctance to leave his familiar world. While the conflicts resolve a bit too easily, the sense of place is strong and the tiger cub’s rescue very satisfying. Pastel illustrations will help readers envision the story.

A multicultural title with obvious appeal for animal-loving middle graders. (author's note, organizations, glossary) (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-58089-660-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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Entrancing and uplifting.

STAY

A small dog, the elderly woman who owns him, and a homeless girl come together to create a tale of serendipity.

Piper, almost 12, her parents, and her younger brother are at the bottom of a long slide toward homelessness. Finally in a family shelter, Piper finds that her newfound safety gives her the opportunity to reach out to someone who needs help even more. Jewel, mentally ill, lives in the park with her dog, Baby. Unwilling to leave her pet, and forbidden to enter the shelter with him, she struggles with the winter weather. Ree, also homeless and with a large dog, helps when she can, but after Jewel gets sick and is hospitalized, Baby’s taken to the animal shelter, and Ree can’t manage the complex issues alone. It’s Piper, using her best investigative skills, who figures out Jewel’s backstory. Still, she needs all the help of the shelter Firefly Girls troop that she joins to achieve her accomplishment: to raise enough money to provide Jewel and Baby with a secure, hopeful future and, maybe, with their kindness, to inspire a happier story for Ree. Told in the authentic alternating voices of loving child and loyal dog, this tale could easily slump into a syrupy melodrama, but Pyron lets her well-drawn characters earn their believable happy ending, step by challenging step, by reaching out and working together. Piper, her family, and Jewel present white; Pyron uses hair and naming convention, respectively, to cue Ree as black and Piper’s friend Gabriela as Latinx.

Entrancing and uplifting. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-283922-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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