THE CAT AND THE CUCKOO

Quirky, clever, mysterious, and lyrical poems about 28 wild and domestic farm animals comprise this collection, originally published (by Sunstone Press, with different illustrations) in England in 1997. A lonely ram bleats at the moon, a hedgehog hatches fleas. A dog sleeps: “He hogs the fire, he bakes his head / As if it were a loaf of bread. / He’s just a sack of snoring dog. / You can lug him like a log. / You can roll him with your foot. / He’ll stay snoring where he’s put. / Take him out for exercise / He’ll roll in cowclap up to his eyes.” The pigeons are more elegant: “Up on the roof the Fantail Pigeons dream / Of dollops of curled cream. / At every morning window their soft voices / Comfort all the bedrooms with caresses.” Hughes’s slightly mismatched rhyme and meter lend an awkward charm to his subjects. McDonnell’s (Giddy Up! Let’s Ride, 2002, etc.) whimsical and folksy duotone paintings portray each animal in a countryside setting, sometimes with a human child or two observing; combined with the small-cut size of the volume, they give a comforting feel to these poems that sometimes veer wonderfully into dark animal thoughts. Similar in intrigue to the animal poems of Richard Michelson or Douglas Florian, similar in insight to the “small” poems of Valerie Worth, Hughes’s poems are rich and musical, and will appeal to young readers. The few Briticisms may be as foreign to some American readers as the setting—yet neither detracts, as each poem encourages readers to observe something in a new way. (Poetry. 7-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7613-1548-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2003

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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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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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