For budding race-car enthusiasts and readers who’ve ever felt they learn differently.

REVVER THE SPEEDWAY SQUIRREL

A squirrel car-racing fan becomes part of a pit crew.

Growing up in a tree overlooking a racetrack, a young squirrel has become fascinated with the speeding cars and the sound of their engines. Although aptly named Revver, he has trouble paying attention when his mother tries to convey the critical skills that he, his sister, and two brothers will need to know when they leave their nest. As he questions his talents within the traditional learning environment, his engineering and speed experiments in this opening section of the novel help keep the episodic chapters quick and lively. When the siblings scatter in different directions on their 50th day of life, Revver heads to the racetrack. After Bill, one of the crew mechanics, realizes that the observant squirrel in his garage can understand him, he teaches Revver different parts of the car and how they work in short passages with plenty of details. Finally the squirrel thrives, realizing his true gifts and even joining the pit crew, and he puts his skills to the test when his sister’s life and a race-day repair are on the line. Expressive illustrations, near disasters, and gags with Revver’s brother Farty (also aptly named) sustain the light adventure. While Revver’s mother and sister assume stereotypical gender roles, the pit crew includes multiple women mechanics. Humans seem to be default white.

For budding race-car enthusiasts and readers who’ve ever felt they learn differently. (Fantasy. 8-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0361-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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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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