Cuteness can’t prop up this sagging sophomore slump.

THE BIG RACE HOME

From the Revver the Speedway Squirrel series , Vol. 2

A race car–loving squirrel learns to temper his impulsive streak.

Following 2020’s Revver the Speedway Squirrel, readers are reunited with Revver, the pit crew squirrel. He loves the action and bustle of the racetrack and all the busyness that surrounds it, but he especially loves his human friends, Bill and Joe. When the race team moves circuits, though, Revver has a tough time exercising patience, causing a few catastrophic crashes and then missing his flight with the team. Separated from his humans, he must rely on the goodness of others to help him find his way back to them. Faced with a perilous journey during which he hikes along a treacherous highway, stows away on a crowded train, and encounters a conniving cat, can Revver reunite with his people before the next big race? Rinker’s tale is filled with abundant squirrel cuteness and a smattering of giggle-inducing poop and puke scenes but falls somewhat flat, mired in its own didacticism with its heavy-handed insistence on patience and kindness. Revver’s observations of the world come across as mundane, favoring telling over showing. The text utilizes a plethora of stylistic conventions—words in all caps, bold emphases, italics, and different fonts—which combined may prove too distracting and might have worked better in a shorter-form chapter book. Human characters are presumed White.

Cuteness can’t prop up this sagging sophomore slump. (Animal adventure. 8-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0367-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one.

THE WILD ROBOT ESCAPES

Roz, a robot who learned to adapt to life among wild creatures in her first outing, seeks to return to the island she calls home.

Brown’s sequel to The Wild Robot (2016) continues an intriguing premise: What would happen to a robot after challenges in an unexpected environment cause it to evolve in unusual ways? As this book opens, Roz is delivered to a farm where she helps a widower with two young children run a dairy operation that has been in his family for generations. Roz reveals her backstory to the cows, who are supportive of the robot’s determination to return to the island and to her adopted son, the goose Brightbill. The cows, the children, and finally Brightbill himself come to Roz’s aid. The focus on Roz’s escape from human control results in a somewhat solemn and episodic narrative, with an extended journey and chase after Roz leaves the farm. Dr. Molovo, a literal deus ex machina, appears near the end of the story to provide a means of rescue. She is Roz’s designer/creator, and, intrigued by the robot’s adaptation and evolution but cognizant of the threat that those achievements might represent to humans, she assists Roz and Brightbill in their quest. The satisfactory (if inevitable-feeling) conclusion may prompt discussion about individual agency and determination, whether for robots or people.

If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38204-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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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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