THREE SWORDS FOR GRANADA

A turgid animal fantasy features Spanish cat musketeers crossing swords with thuggish dog invaders. Fearful but resolute Askia, chubby but loyal Paco, and fearless but female Lacy find themselves in an elite circle of cat conspirators plotting resistance to the foul-breathed Fidorean Guards. The wise and ancient Pietro is the heart and soul of the cat underground, and he sets the three friends to a series of tasks that test them and their fitness to take part in the cat revolution. The tasks seem curiously unrelated to the goal—busy work accomplished easily despite narrative bluster—and the inevitable and eventual defeat of the Fidorean Guards is assured when an enormous cat host masses against the inept hounds, begging the question, how was is it that the Fidorean Guards managed to mount a successful invasion in the first place? Actually, many questions go begging in this slim volume that never seems to end: Where did the Fidorean Guards come from? Why does Pietro, Spanish patriot, have an Italian name? How is it that Speirs’s (The Little Boy’s Christmas Gift, not reviewed, etc.) busy pen-and-ink washes depict costumes from a time 200 years after the 1420 setting? How is it that Myers (Patrol, p. 663, etc.), so sure a wordsmith most of the time, can produce the clunky prose that causes the narrative to trip on itself with almost every turn of the page? “Askia was angry when he left Omar, but he knew that his anger would not be enough to save Lacy. Tava had called him young and hot-blooded, but now was the time for him to be more, to reach inside himself and discover who he really was.” Is it possible that the chapter-book crowd is secretly crying out for a medieval animal fantasy? This, alas, cannot possibly be what they are hoping to get. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-8234-1676-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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TWENTY-ONE ELEPHANTS

Fact and fiction dovetail neatly in this tale of a wonderfully resolute child who finds a memorable way to convince her father that the newly-finished Brooklyn Bridge is safe to cross. Having watched the great bridge going up for most of her young life, Hannah is eager to walk it, but despite repeated, fact-laced appeals to reason (and Hannah is a positive fount of information about its materials and design), her father won’t be moved: “No little girl of mine will cross that metal monster!” Hannah finally hatches a far-fetched plan to convince him once and for all; can she persuade the renowned P.T. Barnum to march his corps of elephants across? She can, and does (actually, he was already planning to do it). Pham places Hannah, radiating sturdy confidence, within sepia-toned, exactly rendered period scenes that capture both the grandeur of the bridge in its various stages of construction, and the range of expressions on the faces of onlookers during its opening ceremonies and after. Readers will applaud Hannah’s polite persistence. (afterword, resources) (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-689-87011-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2004

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A rousing introduction to the life of a voyageur told from a unique perspective.

THE LITTLEST VOYAGEUR

Stowing away with French Canadian fur traders in 1792, a loquacious red squirrel embarks on a life-changing adventure.

Each spring, Jean Pierre Petit Le Rouge, a squirrel with wanderlust, watches brave, strong voyageurs depart in canoes from Montreal and return the following autumn. Determined to be a voyageur, Le Rouge hides in a canoe paddled by eight stout voyageurs, part of a brigade of five. Soon his incessant chattering distracts the voyageurs, who become separated from the rest of the brigade, but, after ascending the highest tree, he points the crew back on course. More than once, pesky Le Rouge barely escapes becoming squirrel ragout. He’s just beginning to feel like a real voyageur when they reach the trading post on Lake Superior, where he discovers the voyageurs exchanging their cargo for animal skins to return to Montreal. Heartsick, Le Rouge decides he cannot be a voyageur if it involves trading animal skins, unless he can change things. Le Rouge relates his story with drama and flair, presenting a colorful prism through which to view the daily life of a voyageur. Peppered with historical facts and (italicized) French phrases and names, this exciting, well-documented tale (with a contemporary animal-rights subtext) proves educational and entertaining. Realistic pencil drawings highlight Le Rouge’s memorable journey.

A rousing introduction to the life of a voyageur told from a unique perspective. (map, pronunciation guide, historical and biological notes, recipe, further reading) (Historical fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4247-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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