The Creature of the Pines

Adam Gidwitz, illus. by Hatem Aly. Dutton, $14.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-7352-3170-2
Kicking off the Unicorn Rescue Society series is a middle grade story filled with twists and turns and narrated in a fresh, fun style. Gidwitz (The Inquisitor’s Tale) introduces animal enthusiast and basically “normal kid,” Elliot Eisner, whose first day at his new school is anything but ordinary. His class takes a field trip to the New Jersey Pine Barrens, a forested area on the coast. On the bus ride, he befriends Uchenna Devereaux, who also started school late the previous year. While in the Pine Barrens with Miss Vole (their teacher), classmates, and a visiting instructor, the secretive and strange Professor Fauna, they hear of superstitions and tales that turn out to be real after Elliot and Uchenna come across a mysterious creature. The encounter ultimately leads them to the Unicorn Rescue Society, a group of adventurers committed to protecting mythological animals from the likes of the Schmoke brothers, two dastardly businessmen. Gidwitz delivers a quick-witted fantasy focused on supposedly imaginary creatures and finding like-minded friends, told from Elliot’s fresh, young perspective. Though Elliot and Uchenna’s burgeoning friendship and cooperation are emphasized, a more subtle lesson about fallibility and recovering from mistakes demonstrates slightly more complex, and necessary, life skills. Ages 8–up. Agent: Sarah Burnes, Gernert Co. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/26/2018
Release date: 04/10/2018
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio

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