THE TROUBLE WITH CHICKENS

From the J.J. Tully Mysteries series , Vol. 1

Popular farmyard chronicler Cronin (Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, illustrated by Betsy Lewin, 2000, etc.) makes the jump to middle-grade fiction in this faux–hard-boiled mystery featuring talking animals. Her deadpan humor is much in evidence as she describes the circumstances under which retired search-and-rescue dog J.J. Tully undertakes the case of the missing chick. Puns abound, and J.J. is definitely not quite as clever as he believes himself to be, allowing readers to gently laugh at as well as with him. Sophisticated vocabulary and a complicated plot suggest the older range of readers as the most likely audience, but frequent illustrations and a relatively large font should make the story accessible to the younger end as well. Cornell’s black-and-white drawings extend both the humor and the action. In some pictures J.J. is slightly reminiscent of Scooby-Doo, another canine sleuth, while in others he is both distinctive and dogged in his determination to solve the puzzle. The chickens, mother and four chicks, are seriously silly looking and utterly adorable, which suits their surprisingly rounded characters just right.  Finding out how “Vince the Funnel” fits in, whether J.J. is being double-crossed by his client and how the climactic rescue will be resolved should keep readers engaged while Cronin’s constant word-play will keep them giggling. Fast and funny. (Comic mystery. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-121532-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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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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