“There’s things you’ve seen and things you may not have, but there ain’t nothing that’s impossible, sugar,” says a village...

BEYOND THE LAUGHING SKY

Nashville, who has qualities both human and birdlike, feels compelled to follow his avian destiny.

The storytelling is folksy, poetic and seductive, beginning, “Nashville and his family lived in a house perched in the branches of the largest pecan tree in the village of Goosepimple.” Little by little, readers learn how Nashville, unlike his adoring younger sister, Junebug, was hatched from an egg. He has a beak and feathers but, alas, no wings. Morstad’s illustrations support the funnier details, including the dinner-table “perch swings” that Nashville’s mother has installed “to make Nashville more comfortable” as he eats his seeds while his family eats typical human fare. The deadpan humor of Flat Stanley is invoked when Nashville’s parents take him for his annual physical examination—at the veterinarian’s office. In added playfulness, said vet is Dr. Larkin; the village teacher is Miss Starling. This allegory of growing up and finding one’s figurative wings is told sweetly and without great angst, despite inclusions of such subjects as school bullying and Nashville’s empathetic but highly illegal pet-store shenanigans. Yet there is an underlying melancholy throughout, somewhat mitigated by the possibility of future communications from the appealing bird-boy.

“There’s things you’ve seen and things you may not have, but there ain’t nothing that’s impossible, sugar,” says a village widow; readers will end the book with a new sense of possible. (Magical realism. 8-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3867-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one.

THE WILD ROBOT ESCAPES

Roz, a robot who learned to adapt to life among wild creatures in her first outing, seeks to return to the island she calls home.

Brown’s sequel to The Wild Robot (2016) continues an intriguing premise: What would happen to a robot after challenges in an unexpected environment cause it to evolve in unusual ways? As this book opens, Roz is delivered to a farm where she helps a widower with two young children run a dairy operation that has been in his family for generations. Roz reveals her backstory to the cows, who are supportive of the robot’s determination to return to the island and to her adopted son, the goose Brightbill. The cows, the children, and finally Brightbill himself come to Roz’s aid. The focus on Roz’s escape from human control results in a somewhat solemn and episodic narrative, with an extended journey and chase after Roz leaves the farm. Dr. Molovo, a literal deus ex machina, appears near the end of the story to provide a means of rescue. She is Roz’s designer/creator, and, intrigued by the robot’s adaptation and evolution but cognizant of the threat that those achievements might represent to humans, she assists Roz and Brightbill in their quest. The satisfactory (if inevitable-feeling) conclusion may prompt discussion about individual agency and determination, whether for robots or people.

If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38204-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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