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The Land of the Strays

There is no guarantee that live will be better on the other side. Even still, we all face moments that force us to choose whether to stay where we are or take a massive leap of faith. These moments move quickly yet feel eternal, and they forever change the course of our lives. Just ask Grey the Kitten.

Grey didn't know when she leapt through the gate to leave Black Mountain Farm that she'd bee a Labrador who could hear the inner thoughts of other animals. Grey had no idea that she'd bear witness to a kidnapping or that her newfound friends would test her loyalty on the Trinity Trails. She had no clue that she was jumping into an epic battle that would alter the future of everyone around her. Grey didn't leave her beloved farm and friends behind for any of these reasons. She left because it was her destiny. Now Grey must decide whose side she's really on: the leases or the strays. 

The leashes live at the Argos, a high-rise building named after the dog of an ancient warrior. From a poncho-clad Poodle to a rhinestone-born Bengal, the leases seem to have everything they could ever want. But at the Argos, nothing is what it seems. In start contrast, the strays belong to a different class: the "Stray Club." The first rule among the leashes is that you don't talk to or talk about the Stray Club. Grey's never been good at following the rules.

The Land of the Strays is the squeal to The Land of the Pines, which was named a "Must-Read" by InStyle Magazine, "A Modern Take on Charlotte's Web" by CultureMap, and "Best Children's Books of 2021, Middle Grade" by Red Tricycle.

The latest in Nilsson’s Loodor Tales series is a heartfelt, almost metaphysical journey that features a mis-matched pack of animals, rivalry between strays and leashed animals, a cat and dog with powers, and the guidance of the stars themselves. Grey the kitten’s decision to jump through a fence into oncoming traffic–and out into the world–not only changes her life but sets her on a path to meet new friends and learn about the importance of teamwork. Brimming with action, intrigue, and quirky animals, The Land of the Strays encourages readers to trust in themselves and their pack, as Grey learns to do the same.

Grey and the animals she meets along the way–a stray cat, former search and rescue dog, a gecko, and a dog with magical powers similar to her own–are a fully-loaded cast of engaging personalities that offer ample opportunity for memorable characterization. The story’s persistent flashbacks, occurring every other chapter, at times overwhelm the narrative present, as they establish the precise traits that the team will need to complete its mission.The best scenes, as when Blaze the “high-brow” Bengal tour-guides a nervous Grey through the Trinity Trails, boast an engaging comic snap and much surprising detail: “Etiquette is just a big word for ‘socially acceptable behavior,’ Blaze explains. At other times, the characters speak in platitudes, explicating the novel’s message so explicitly that there’s little room for reader interpretation.

Despite the moralizing, animal lovers and advocates will appreciate the story’s ultimate theme of compassion and understanding for others–and the team’s perseverance as they “all [work] to achieve a shared goal.” Spot illustrations at the beginning of each chapter provide further opportunity to appreciate the animals’ personalities, such as seeing Olivia the poodle’s outrageous outfit or Grey’s cowgirl costume. Adventure seekers and animal rights supporters will enjoy this intriguing story of camaraderie, bravery, and, in the end, victory.

Takeaway: This tale of talking animals with superpowers is sure to intrigue adventurous young readers.

Great for fans of: Tui T. Sutherland’s Wings of Fire: The Flames of Hope, Eugene McCabe’s Cyril’s Woodland Quest.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-