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Monday, October 22, 2018

Creature of the Pines by Adam Gidwitz

Creature of the PinesElliot Eisner is at a new school, again.  Ugh!  Finding a seat on the bus is pure torture until he meets a girl, Uchenna, his first friend.  Uchenna is unlike any other girl he knows.  Not only has she started school in the middle of the year, she makes up silly songs about anything such as old ladies and raisins.

On his first day, Elliot has a field trip to the Pine Barrens in New Jersey.  Before the trip, the kids meet Professor Fauna, a social studies teacher with knowledge of rare animals.  He is their unusual and slightly scary guide who also believes in unicorns.  Elliot and Uchenna are strongly warned that the woods are dangerous.  The odd professor makes it clear that they could be hurt if they do not listen to him.  It can't be true, right?

Well, there are dangerous things in the woods.  Uchenna and Elliot know that there might be bears, bobcats, and coyotes.  Instead, they find a supposedly mythical creature called a Jersey Devil that was caught in a trap.  When they free the tiny winged deer-like creature and feed it, the animal follows them into the bus.  In one quick move, Uchenna opens her backpack and lets the extra special animal hide inside.

As they walk home from school, Jersey, named for his home in New Jersey, escapes Uchenna's backpack and runs towards the most dangerous place for any unique creature, the Schmokes factory.  Animals who enter the dreaded Schmokes factory do not come out.  With Professor Fauna's help, can the kids help this one of a kind creature get to safety?

This is the first title in the "Unicorn Rescue Society" series.  For fans of the animals both real and imagined, this book offers a fun set of characters and a fast paced plot for readers in grades 2 to 4.  Readers might like the sequel, The Basque Dragon in which Elliot and Uchenna help Professor Fauna rescue a herensuge, a special kind of dragon, from the dreaded Schmoke brothers, Edmund and Milton.

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