Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson

Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson

Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Charlotte Voake (InfoSoup)

Published to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Potter’s birth, this picture book tells the true story of an event in Potter’s childhood. Beatrix loved animals from a very young age. In fact, she and her brother had quite a collection of animals over the years from a family of snails to rabbits trained to walk on a leash. Beatrix also loved to draw and paint her animals. One day, she wanted to paint a guinea pig so she borrowed one from a neighbor. The guinea was a magnificent specimen named Queen Elizabeth. Beatrix promised to return Queen Elizabeth the next morning “unharmed.” Unfortunately though, she would not be able to keep that promise!

Hopkinson adopts a wonderfully wry tone throughout this picture book where readers know that something horrible is going to befall Queen Elizabeth. There is lovely foreshadowing from the title but also from the demise of other creatures in Beatrix’s care, including the family of snails who simply dried out and lizards eaten by birds. The pacing here is delicately balanced, allowing plenty of time for the dread to creep in as Beatrix takes the guinea pig home.

Voake’s illustrations are done in pen and watercolor, showing the world of Victorian England as well as the myriad pets owned by the Potter family. Voake includes parts of Potter’s own diaries in the illustrations, showing her detailed look at her pets and also illuminating how some of them died.

This picture book offers a humorous look at young Beatrix Potter who would become known for her images of animals living through what many children do when they care for others pets or even their own. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade.

Titans by Victoria Scott

Titans by Victoria Scott

Titans by Victoria Scott

Astrid’s family has been destroyed by the Titans, mechanical horses raced at a track near her Detroit neighborhood. Her father lost everything betting on the horses and now they may lose their home. Yet Astrid also finds herself drawn to the Titans and spending time figuring out the math to create the best approaches to turns. So when Astrid meets a strange old man who has a Titan of his own, the first generation ever made, Astrid knows that she just has to try to ride it. It is up to Astrid now to secure the future for her family if she can only prove that a poor girl and an old horse can win.

Scott has written such a rip-roaring story. It is a book that will hook those who love horses as well as those who love racing. It’s a book that is science fiction, but a near future that is all too possible, where the division between rich and poor is even more strong than today and where impossibly complex robotic horses come to life. Even better, it is a world that makes sense for the reader, one with great appeal and a strong heroine to cheer for.

Astrid is an amazing heroine. She has a brain that thinks in mathematics and physics, naturally bounding ahead of others. And she uses it not just to ride differently than the others but also to face the horrible traps set into the race track that change from one race to another.  Astrid is complex. She is deeply loyal to her family, yet does not tell them what she is doing. She also takes longer than the reader to fall for her Titan, something that works very nicely so that the reader is cheering them on together.

A riveting read that is compulsively readable, this teen novel has great appeal and will set anyone’s heart racing. Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic Press.