Unusual and poignant—full of the depth and contradictions of life.

OF A FEATHER

A relationship between a young owl and a young girl helps them both confront their fears.

Reenie is taken away from her grandmother’s house by social services after a fight between her grandmother and her grandmother’s boyfriend endangers her. Reenie has been through this before—when her mother’s depression is bad enough, she has to be hospitalized, leaving Reenie at the mercy of social services. This time she is delivered to Beatrice, a great-aunt she has never met. Beatrice turns out to be a master falconer, and Reenie, despite her overall mistrust of adults, is intrigued. When a young, undernourished owl ends up in a hawk trap by mistake, Reenie convinces Beatrice to bring the owl, whom she names Rufus, back to the house. The story is narrated in alternating first-person chapters from the points of view of Rufus and Reenie, with both protagonists having distinctive, plausible voices. Even before he is caught in the trap, Rufus suffers from a debilitating lack of confidence, being second-hatched and therefore smaller and weaker, which he overcompensates for by (often amusing) deliberations and conjectures. Reenie’s distrust of emotional closeness is deftly played with well-reasoned plot developments. Set in Vermont, the story is fleshed out by thought-provoking forays into the ethics of hunting and the powerlessness of children in determining their home lives. Reenie is in the sixth grade and reads as White.

Unusual and poignant—full of the depth and contradictions of life. (author's note, bird facts, glossary) (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-28353-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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THE FIRST CAT IN SPACE ATE PIZZA

Will extragalactic rats eat the moon?

Can a cybernetic toenail clipper find a worthy purpose in the vast universe? Will the first feline astronaut ever get a slice of pizza? Read on. Reworked from the Live Cartoon series of homespun video shorts released on Instagram in 2020 but retaining that “we’re making this up as we go” quality, the episodic tale begins with the electrifying discovery that our moon is being nibbled away. Off blast one strong, silent, furry hero—“Meow”—and a stowaway robot to our nearest celestial neighbor to hook up with the imperious Queen of the Moon and head toward the dark side, past challenges from pirates on the Sea of Tranquility and a sphinx with a riddle (“It weighs a ton, but floats on air. / It’s bald but has a lot of hair.” The answer? “Meow”). They endure multiple close but frustratingly glancing encounters with pizza and finally deliver the malign, multiheaded Rat King and its toothy armies to a suitable fate. Cue the massive pizza party! Aside from one pirate captain and a general back on Earth, the human and humanoid cast in Harris’ loosely drawn cartoon panels, from the appropriately moon-faced queen on, is light skinned. Merch, music, and the original episodes are available on an associated website.

Epic lunacy. (Graphic science fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308408-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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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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