Like its series predecessors, both broad and deep, focused on themes of community dynamics and conflict resolution.

A BAD KING IS A SAD THING

From the Rabbit & Bear series , Vol. 5

Bear and her woodland friends are terrorized by a towering ice bear who moves in, declaring himself king and them nonpersons—“just food that no one has bothered to eat.”

“I thought this kind of terrible thing only happened in books!” declares Mole, aghast. But no, it seems that if the roaring, imperious newcomer’s demand for a whole new palace isn’t met overnight, everyone will be summarily “beaten, eaten, and pooped.” What to do when the kindness and generosity that resolved problems in past episodes go for naught and even force isn’t a viable option? Showing that there’s still some moral high ground to be explored, Gough brings in help from a decidedly unexpected source…namely, Wolf, earlier driven off into the Dark Woods to starve for his predatory behavior but, it turns out, wise in the ways of coping with fears and clever enough to devise a collective strategy to send the bully packing. The grateful animals in turn contrive a nonfatal way to bring their tricksy, toothy benefactor back into the fold. At least for a time. Flooding snowy settings in the duotone illustrations with blue, wintry light, Field exaggerates the expressions and postures of his popeyed cartoon animal figures to heighten the comedy and the drama alike. In several scenes Wolf resembles a particularly feral, emaciated Wile E. Coyote, which makes his sagacity even more of a thought-provoking surprise.

Like its series predecessors, both broad and deep, focused on themes of community dynamics and conflict resolution. (map) (Animal fantasy. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64517-602-2

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably...

LOST AND FOUND

A lad finds a penguin on his doorstep and resolutely sets out to return it in this briefly told import. 

Eventually, he ends up rowing it all the way back to Antarctica, braving waves and storms, filling in the time by telling it stories. But then, feeling lonely after he drops his silent charge off, he belatedly realizes that it was probably lonely too, and turns back to find it. Seeing Jeffers’s small, distant figures in wide, simply brushed land- and sea-scapes, young viewers will probably cotton to the penguin’s feelings before the boy himself does—but all’s well that ends well, and the reunited companions are last seen adrift together in the wide blue sea. 

Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably with this—slightly—less offbeat friendship tale. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-24503-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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