­Feiwel & Friends. Sept. 2021. 272p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250147400.
Gr 3-7–Applegate’s latest fantasy is a simple but beautiful story about humans’ relationship with the natural world. Orphaned Willodeen has never quite fit in with her peers. She loves all animals, but especially the widely despised screecher: a smelly creature with tusks, a snout, tails, and quills. She is happy keeping to herself until the screechers begin to disappear, mainly due to the bounty the town of Perchance has placed on them. The rest of the town is focused on the disappearance of the hummingbears, winged bears responsible for the tourist draw to Perchance. After witnessing the killing of an old screecher, Willowdeen’s new friend Connor carves her one that is magically brought to life through her tears. Determined to save this last screecher, Willodeen finds the connection between the screechers and hummingbears and stands up for them at a town meeting. Red-haired Willowdeen is cued as white. Connor has brown skin.
VERDICT A sweet fantasy about standing up for what you believe in. Hand to all young environmentalists.

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