PLB 0-531-33203-9 A silly, but ultimately satisfying story of wish-fulfillment, in which Sonenklar (My Own Worst Enemy, p. 727, etc.) perfectly captures a middle grader’s obsession with fantasy heroes. Small for his age, often bullied, new kid Howard is thrilled when he wins a contest to attend a taping of his favorite TV show, “Mighty Boy.” Even though he knows that Mighty Boy is played by an actor, Howard is nevertheless shocked to find that the actor has none of the hero’s qualities. When the two boys get lost in the woods, Howard’s camping skills, learned from his father entirely offstage, save the day. Sonenklar is deft in limning Howard’s preoccupation with Mighty Boy: he dreams about him at night, daydreams during class, and, even in the presence of the (and initially not very nice) boy, can’t quite grasp the idea that none of it is real. The dangerous way Howard deals with the bully when he returns to school (he smacks a beehive so that the bees attack his tormentor) lacks any sort of warning; otherwise this is a funny and enjoyable novel. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-531-30203-2

Page Count: 118

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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Auch (Eggs Mark the Spot, 1996, etc.) offers up an audacious tale starring a unusual band of anthropomorphic creatures. Clara, a young farm duck about to experience her first winter, becomes insatiably curious when she hears the other barnyard animals discussing Christmas. Impatient and determined to solve the mystery surrounding this event, she sets out on her own, which leads to a series of funny encounters, mistaken identities, and even some danger. After a narrow escape from a hungry fox, Clara returns home to find the holiday festivities in full swing. Amidst cows and sheep in tutus, Clara learns that Christmas is about being surrounded by loved ones. Auch’s illustrations provide droll counterpoints to the text: Clara’s mountain at the top of the world is really a haystack in a field, the ferocious beast with large eyes is an abandoned farm vehicle, etc. Those who revel in Auch’s unique brand of quips, jests, and irreverent humor will not be disappointed, and newcomers will just laugh themselves silly. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1999

ISBN: 0-8234-1524-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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In the unforgiving terrain of eastern Oregon in the first decade of the 20th century, 12-year-old John Nolan (known to his family as “Wart”) has been given a difficult, maybe even impossible job by his father. Because his mother is about to give birth, making it impossible for Wart’s father to leave the family farm, it is up to Wart to find a group of runaway horses led by the temperamental and headstrong Ol’ Rosie. Wart’s father, gruff and uncommunicative, expects a great deal from his oldest son, leaving Wart feeling that whatever he does isn’t good enough. Wart sets off before dawn and spends the day scouring the area around the farm, but with no luck. The next day, with his father’s imaginary voice alternately chiding and encouraging him, Wart, amazingly, does manage to find the horses and get them home, but not before Ol’ Rosie has taken on a cougar and killed it, and then bolted for her freedom, a freedom that Wart doesn’t begrudge her. After Wart’s dangerous expedition, he is beginning to see things differently. “I’ve always thought of Pa as a real big man. . . . Hard as the rimrocks, strong as the biggest horse. But now all at once I saw that he isn’t all that tall. . . . Maybe he isn’t that hard, either, or that strong. . . .” Intermittently interesting, but generally slow-moving, despite the adventurous nature of Wart’s journey, this novel all too deliberately sets out to show that this experience is a life-changing, fear-conquering, coming-of-age event for Wart. At least Wart offers a dissenting point of view to the hundreds of children’s books that sing the praises of that oh-so-noble beast, the horse. Wart doesn’t like them. “You don’t get a whole lot of sympathy from a horse. A horse will kick you, and then when you’re lying there on the ground—in a pile of manure—he will walk on you before you can get up.” Not as powerful as Moeri’s earlier Save Queen of Sheba (1981) or as action-packed as Gary Paulsen’s The Haymeadow (1992), nevertheless this will appeal to readers who’ve enjoyed both. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-82614-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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