NIGHT OF THE SPADEFOOT TOADS

Recently relocated to Massachusetts, fifth-grader Ben Moroney is homesick for the desert, lizard and best friend he left behind in Arizona. He feels more at home, however, when he finds a kindred spirit in his eccentric science teacher, Mrs. Tibbets. She shares with Ben a love of amphibians and reptiles and exploring the natural world. Mrs. Tibbets invites Ben to explore with her the natural habitats on her rural property, where she introduces him to the endangered spadefoot toads that inhabit a vernal pool. As they become friends, Ben learns that Mrs. Tibbets recently lost her husband, a well-regarded herpetologist, and that her sister-in-law who lives next door owns the property and plans to sell it to developers. After finding that there is not enough evidence to warrant state protection, Ben uses a school project to convince the sister-in-law to keep the property. Although the outcome is entirely predictable, Harley’s appealing story shows readers that adults and children can connect in meaningful friendships, and reminds them that conservation can begin in their own backyards. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-56145-459-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Newbery Honor Book

BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE

A 10-year old girl learns to adjust to a strange town, makes some fascinating friends, and fills the empty space in her heart thanks to a big old stray dog in this lyrical, moving, and enchanting book by a fresh new voice. India Opal’s mama left when she was only three, and her father, “the preacher,” is absorbed in his own loss and in the work of his new ministry at the Open-Arms Baptist Church of Naomi [Florida]. Enter Winn-Dixie, a dog who “looked like a big piece of old brown carpet that had been left out in the rain.” But, this dog had a grin “so big that it made him sneeze.” And, as Opal says, “It’s hard not to immediately fall in love with a dog who has a good sense of humor.” Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal meets Miss Franny Block, an elderly lady whose papa built her a library of her own when she was just a little girl and she’s been the librarian ever since. Then, there’s nearly blind Gloria Dump, who hangs the empty bottle wreckage of her past from the mistake tree in her back yard. And, Otis, oh yes, Otis, whose music charms the gerbils, rabbits, snakes and lizards he’s let out of their cages in the pet store. Brush strokes of magical realism elevate this beyond a simple story of friendship to a well-crafted tale of community and fellowship, of sweetness, sorrow and hope. And, it’s funny, too. A real gem. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7636-0776-2

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

Did you like this book?

NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

more