The didactic plot is further hampered by exposition and too many characters to keep straight.

A FURRY FIASCO

From the Animal Inn series , Vol. 1

A misunderstanding at Animal Inn leads to anxiety.

The Tyler family (Mom, Dad, Jake, Ethan, and Cassie—who all lack racial markers in the text but have light skin in the black-and-white illustrations) once lived in a city apartment but now live out in the country. There they run Animal Inn (a combined pet hotel, school, and spa that offers further animal services, such as puppy birthday parties and reading activities) with their family pets as permanent residents (narrator Leopold the macaw, terrier Dash, chocolate Lab Coco, cats Shadow and Whiskers, and gerbils Fuzzy and Furry). As the story opens, the animals first hear that a wizard is coming but find greater terror in the clarification that the wizard won’t be the guest—the wizard’s dragon will be. The animals’ anxiety levels increase as they deal with the preparations of the inn for the new guest, even though at the halfway point one of the many guests (a miniature poodle, very French) relates an anecdote about unnecessary fear in the face of misinformation and misunderstandings. Finally, the dragon is revealed to be a rescued Komodo dragon and “wizard” the result of young Cassie’s difficulties pronouncing the word “lizard,” and soon all are friends. Here’s hoping the next books will go lighter on the exposition, characters, and heavy-handedness.

The didactic plot is further hampered by exposition and too many characters to keep straight. (preview of next book) (Fiction/animal fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6224-2

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale.

A TRUE HOME

From the Heartwood Hotel series , Vol. 1

An orphan mouse unexpectedly arrives at Heartwood Hotel, which she hopes will become the home she’s seeking.

Mona’s never had a home for long. After a storm forces her to flee her latest forest shelter, she discovers an enormous tree with a heart carved into its trunk. When Mona presses the heart, a door opens, and she enters the lobby of Heartwood Hotel, where small forest critters hibernate, eat, and celebrate in safety. The kindhearted badger proprietor, Mr. Heartwood, takes pity on homeless Mona, allowing her to stay for the fall to assist the maid, Tilly, a red squirrel. Grateful to be at Heartwood, Mona strives to prove herself despite Tilly’s unfriendly attitude. Mona’s clever approaches with a wounded songbird, an anxious skunk, and a wayward bear win Mr. Heartwood’s approval. But when Mona accidentally breaks a rule, Tilly convinces her she will be fired. As Mona secretly leaves Heartwood, she discovers marauding wolves planning to crash Heartwood’s Snow Festival and devises a daring plan to save the place she regards as home. Charming anthropomorphic characters, humorous mishaps, and outside threats add to the drama. Delicate pencil illustrations reinforce Heartwood’s cozy home theme. A sequel, The Greatest Gift, publishes simultaneously.

A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale. (Animal fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-3161-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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Gentle, encouraging, witty fantasy that may soothe readers suffering from climate anxiety.

THE GOLDEN SWIFT

From the Silver Arrow series , Vol. 2

Children with magical talking steam trains are thrilled by their clever new plan to rescue endangered animals.

Eleven-year-old Kate absolutely adores her secret job—helping animals in need by using the magical locomotive that was a gift from her billionaire wizard uncle. Kate loves riding the Silver Arrow with Uncle Herbert; her brother, Tom; and the talking animals they escort to safe places. But now Uncle Herbert is missing, 9-year-old Tom seems more interested in hapkido than their supernatural train, and Kate’s struggling socially and academically thanks to her eco-anxiety. No matter how many animals she helps, no matter how many adults proclaim that climate change is a critical issue, the environment keeps getting worse. One night Kate discovers another train driving on the magical railroad: The Golden Swift is conducted by her classmate Jag, who thinks rescuing stranded creatures isn’t sufficiently radical. When Kate joins him, she feels more inspired and more righteous than ever before. This time, she’s actually making the world better! Kate’s unhappy discoveries of unintended consequences and the moral complexities of her activism are softened by humor. The snarky banter of the talking locomotive is an understated delight, as is the train constructed with, among others, candy and ice cream cars, an invisible car, and a dojo car. Kate and Tom are White; Jag is described as having dark skin and black hair and possibly being Indian. Charming illustrations enhance the text.

Gentle, encouraging, witty fantasy that may soothe readers suffering from climate anxiety. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-28354-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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