Cat lovers will be sorry to see Anton and Cecil suffer indifference and outright abuse from sailors and pirates, as well as...

CATS AT SEA

From the Anton and Cecil series , Vol. 1

This collaboration by a respected author of literary fiction and her niece, an educator and writer of poetry for children, is an odd mix of talking cats, oceangoing adventure and mystical events.

Slender, gray Anton and large, black Cecil are not much alike, but, readers are told, the brothers love one another and enjoy their mostly peaceful life as stray cats in a seaside town. Pensive Anton enjoys listening to the sailors singing in the local saloon; adventurous Cecil prefers to pace along the dock, seeking sustenance and occasionally spending a day on board a fishing boat. Their low-key lives change dramatically when Anton is taken to sea against his will, and Cecil sets out to find him and bring him home. The plot is carefully woven, the vocabulary rich and distinctive, and the characters engaging (particularly Hieronymus, a hilariously loquacious mouse). Unfortunately, the overall effect is confusing rather than charming. The decision not to explain a key turning point may leave readers perplexed and even troubled, while other details fall just a bit too short of the fantastic to seem truly magical or rely on exceedingly unlikely coincidences.

Cat lovers will be sorry to see Anton and Cecil suffer indifference and outright abuse from sailors and pirates, as well as facing other dangers, but they’re still not likely to care overmuch about the eventual resolution. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61620-246-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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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

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Entrancing and uplifting.

STAY

A small dog, the elderly woman who owns him, and a homeless girl come together to create a tale of serendipity.

Piper, almost 12, her parents, and her younger brother are at the bottom of a long slide toward homelessness. Finally in a family shelter, Piper finds that her newfound safety gives her the opportunity to reach out to someone who needs help even more. Jewel, mentally ill, lives in the park with her dog, Baby. Unwilling to leave her pet, and forbidden to enter the shelter with him, she struggles with the winter weather. Ree, also homeless and with a large dog, helps when she can, but after Jewel gets sick and is hospitalized, Baby’s taken to the animal shelter, and Ree can’t manage the complex issues alone. It’s Piper, using her best investigative skills, who figures out Jewel’s backstory. Still, she needs all the help of the shelter Firefly Girls troop that she joins to achieve her accomplishment: to raise enough money to provide Jewel and Baby with a secure, hopeful future and, maybe, with their kindness, to inspire a happier story for Ree. Told in the authentic alternating voices of loving child and loyal dog, this tale could easily slump into a syrupy melodrama, but Pyron lets her well-drawn characters earn their believable happy ending, step by challenging step, by reaching out and working together. Piper, her family, and Jewel present white; Pyron uses hair and naming convention, respectively, to cue Ree as black and Piper’s friend Gabriela as Latinx.

Entrancing and uplifting. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-283922-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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