Possessing an earnest ridiculousness similar to that of a Dahl story, Freddie’s adventure should appeal to a similar...

FREDDIE MOLE

LION TAMER

A boy is tossed from the frying pan into the lion’s cage.

Freddie Mole, a “kind boy” who “lived quite a few years ago,” wants to get a job to help his impoverished family. Fortunately for the well-liked Freddie, his pals often treat him on outings, so when a friend invites him to the circus, Freddie can’t resist. To his surprise and delight, the circus needs a new assistant, and he’s hired on the spot. At the end of his first day, after Freddie’s swept the big top and helped the cook with the washing up, the ringmaster belatedly informs Freddie that he’s also the circus’ sole understudy. First he learns the trapeze, which is scary enough but made scarier when the hilariously incompetent aerialists almost forget the net. However, Freddie does such a wonderful job, he’s assigned to understudy the lion tamer (this was back “when circuses still had lions”). When the tamer runs off to Peru “or somewhere like that,” it’s up to Freddie to save the show. Will he succeed? Or will the ferocious beasts be his end? The unidentified narrator’s direct address forges an emotional connection between readers and Freddie. Cozy Briticisms and the curly black-and-white line art reinforce the story’s “once upon a time” feel. The cast is evidently all white.

Possessing an earnest ridiculousness similar to that of a Dahl story, Freddie’s adventure should appeal to a similar audience. (Humor. 7-12)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1377-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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Rich, naturalistic details will delight lovers of marine life.

ODDER

A Monterey Bay sea otter comes of age.

Odder’s mom told her to stay away from sharks, humans, and anything else she didn’t understand, but after saving her friend Kairi from a shark attack, she encounters all three. Injured herself during the rescue, Odder ends up recuperating at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, or Highwater as the otters call it, where she once lived as a young orphaned pup. Last time, the humans helped her reintegrate into the wild, but because of her injuries this time the outcome might be different. Soon Kairi is there too, stricken with “the shaking sickness” and having lost her newborn pup. Now Kairi is fostering a new pup, and soon one is introduced to an initially reluctant Odder in hopes that she will help raise it so it can return to the wild. The free verse effortlessly weaves in scientific information, giving Odder a voice without overly anthropomorphizing any of the animals. The natural appeal of sea otters will draw readers in, but the book doesn’t shy away from real-world threats such as predators, disease, and pollution. Loosely based on the stories of real sea otters rehabilitated at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, this novel will give readers lots to talk about, but uneven pacing and a rushed ending may leave some unsatisfied. Charming black-and-white spot art captures the world and life of the sea.

Rich, naturalistic details will delight lovers of marine life. (glossary, author’s note, bibliography, resources) (Verse novel. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-14742-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new...

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THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.

Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human—except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers’ passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout.

Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-199225-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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