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Book review: 'The Fallen Star' offers middle grade readers a new Nocturnals adventure
"The Fallen Star: The Nocturnals Book 3" is by Tracey Hecht and Kate Liebman. - photo by Rosemarie Howard
"THE FALLEN STAR: The Nocturnals Book 3," by Tracey Hecht, illustrated by Kate Liebman, Fabled Films Press, $15.99, 208 pages (f) (ages 8-11)

The Fallen Star, the third book in the Nocturnals series by Tracey Hecht, illustrated by Kate Liebman, finds the Nocturnal Brigade on a new quest to save many animals from death by a mysterious poison somehow related to a strange fallen star.

Woylies, lemurs and scorpions aye, aye! Dawn, a smart and serious-minded fox; Tobin, a gentle, kind-hearted pangolin who sometimes emits a foul-smelling protective odor; and Bismark, a full-of-himself sugar glider known as the Nocturnal Brigade deal with these and other creatures of the night in solving this new mystery.

One night as the trio watches falling stars, a huge ball of light heads straight toward them. As it hits the Earth not far away, pomelo trees topple to the ground and the entire landscape is changed. Animals who eat the fallen pomelos begin to get sick and die.

As they search for the precious blue flowers that are an antidote to the poison, the members of the team use their natural abilities to their advantage. Dawns stability and keen mind, Bismarks gliding ability and the noxious odor Tobin emits when frightened, or battling a deadly poison, play significant roles in unraveling the mystery.

Hecht knows her audience and has written a well-paced story with short chapters that keep readers hanging on to the end. It contains a semi-covert lesson in kindness and accepting others for who they are. The unlikely alliance of the Brigade members, animals who come from disparate ecosystems, offers an example of unique individuals forming strong friendships.

Illustrations, whimsical soft pastel abstracts of the characters and their environment, are limited to a small four-color drawing at the beginning of each chapter.

Other than Bismarks often annoying, occasionally humorous, unrelenting declarations of unrequited passion for Dawn, and his occasional use of Gods name in French as an expletive, the book contains no other foul language, sexual innuendo or graphic violence.

Hecht is the creative director for New York-based Fabled Films. Her first middle grade series, the Nocturnals also includes The Mysterious Abductions and The Ominous Eye.