Funny, warmhearted, and involving, with a timely ecological message.


A sixth grade boy and some friends team up to try to foil a poacher/plant thief in this debut middle-grade novel.

Oxbow Island, off the coast of Portland, Maine, is a special place for Berend “Bear” Houtman, 11. He spends summers there with his grandmother Sally Parker, and he loves its natural beauty. But now sixth grade has begun, and Bear is visiting after being suspended from school for acting out in response to bullying and being betrayed by his former best friend. Bear feels disgraced, but kindness from others—plus the island’s magic—soon improves his mood. While exploring in the woods, Bear is dismayed to find that someone has been uprooting, stealing, and destroying delicate orchids—and worse, setting illegal traps. Honey the Wonder Dog, Sally’s pet, is injured by one such trap, and Bear finds a dead beaver in another. It seems the area’s beaver ponds are being targeted, perhaps on behalf of rich summer residents. Bear forms a bold plan with old friends and new to scout out beaver ponds, catch the trapper, and protect his beloved island. In her novel, Chalmers creates a vivid sense of Oxbow Island and its close-knit, year-round residents. They’re a quirky bunch, coming in a wide range of ages, races, and backgrounds: a 90-year-old woman; a middle-aged black professor; a Hispanic wheelchair user and his daughter; a taxi driver; and a newspaper deliveryman. While the rescue plot is compelling and cheerworthy, it has wider effects. Bear’s investigation doesn’t just benefit plants and animals, it also brings the island community closer. In addition, Bear comes to a new, more mature understanding about the conflict with his ex-friend, with some well-earned reflections on growing up. The chapter head illustrations by Hogan are charming additions.

Funny, warmhearted, and involving, with a timely ecological message.

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63381-211-6

Page Count: 197

Publisher: Maine Authors Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Coretta Scott King Book Award Winner

  • National Book Award Winner

  • Newbery Honor Book


A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

Did you like this book?