Delightfully nutty chapter-book fare.

SQUIRREL IN THE HOUSE

On a particularly cold, snowy afternoon, Twitch the squirrel decides to take up the next-door dog's invitation to go Inside, where the two wreak havoc before leading the man of the house Outside to rescue a small child.

Twitch understands that the world has been designed for squirrels. “Squirrels are everybody’s best friend.” Cold and curious one winter day, Squirrel heads for the “grand brick entryway…straight down from the roof right into the heart of the house.” There, he finds mysterious objects everywhere, as well as many delicious foods to eat. But Twitch is not the only guest; young relatives are also visiting today. When the dog and the youngest visitor chase Twitch, many things get broken. The child is blamed, runs Outside into the cold and snow, falls, and hurts his ankle so he can't get up. As a “polite guest of honor,” Twitch knows he has a duty to alert the people to find him, but how? This humorous story is told cheerfully from the squirrel's extremely filtered perspective in present tense, with a surprisingly elevated language. (After all, he is “highly educated.”) Readers do not have to have read 8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos (2011) to enjoy this squirrel's-eye view of the world and the slapstick humor. Short chapters illustrated with pen-and-ink line drawings add to the appeal.

Delightfully nutty chapter-book fare. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3633-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale.

A TRUE HOME

From the Heartwood Hotel series , Vol. 1

An orphan mouse unexpectedly arrives at Heartwood Hotel, which she hopes will become the home she’s seeking.

Mona’s never had a home for long. After a storm forces her to flee her latest forest shelter, she discovers an enormous tree with a heart carved into its trunk. When Mona presses the heart, a door opens, and she enters the lobby of Heartwood Hotel, where small forest critters hibernate, eat, and celebrate in safety. The kindhearted badger proprietor, Mr. Heartwood, takes pity on homeless Mona, allowing her to stay for the fall to assist the maid, Tilly, a red squirrel. Grateful to be at Heartwood, Mona strives to prove herself despite Tilly’s unfriendly attitude. Mona’s clever approaches with a wounded songbird, an anxious skunk, and a wayward bear win Mr. Heartwood’s approval. But when Mona accidentally breaks a rule, Tilly convinces her she will be fired. As Mona secretly leaves Heartwood, she discovers marauding wolves planning to crash Heartwood’s Snow Festival and devises a daring plan to save the place she regards as home. Charming anthropomorphic characters, humorous mishaps, and outside threats add to the drama. Delicate pencil illustrations reinforce Heartwood’s cozy home theme. A sequel, The Greatest Gift, publishes simultaneously.

A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale. (Animal fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-3161-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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