A charming tale of identity, migration, gentrification, and organized resistance.

OH, RATS!

After being kidnapped by Walter, a chatty red-tailed hawk, a spunky New Jersey squirrel needs to adjust to life with wharf rats on a Manhattan pier.

When a violent encounter with hot tar and then a dunk in the Hudson leaves red squirrel Phoenix without his signature dashing fur and adrift in the middle of a dizzying city, sister and brother rats Lucy and Beckett (who also reads and writes) take him in. Soon their community of wharf rats discovers that an odious New York developer (ahem!) named P.J. Weeks is tearing down their beloved pier to build tennis courts. Unlike squirrels, wharf rats are highly organized in their resistance to human encroachment. Phoenix is enlisted to sabotage the electrical grid, surprising even himself with the results. When Walter eventually returns and offers Phoenix a ride back to his original home, a moment of truth allows Phoenix to choose the life that feels most relevant to his newer self. Veteran author Seidler sets just the right pace, with a skillfully drawn handful of characters and an adept rendering of Phoenix’s transformation from squirrel to rat. The novel’s ambiance, allegory, and illustrations are more reminiscent of mid-20th-century classics than recent anthropomorphic animal fare despite the very current theme.

A charming tale of identity, migration, gentrification, and organized resistance. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2684-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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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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Dizzyingly silly.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TYRANNICAL RETALIATION OF THE TURBO TOILET 2000

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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