An overstuffed, messy sci-fi narrative whose saving grace is an enjoyable main character.

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THE DRAKE EQUATION

After finding a mysterious puck-shaped object in the woods, a young bird-watcher must play the hero—and at times fail—in this adventure.

At first, white seventh-grader Noah Grow forgets about the disc when he discovers that a rare black swift has made its home in the nearby nature preserve, representing his “biggest bird-watching score ever!” The disc, however, derails his enthusiasm for the bird. With help from his two best friends, Noah learns that the object grants him strange powers. When some young children find themselves in trouble, Noah uses his newfound abilities to save them. Still, the peculiar disc both thrills and troubles him. “That puck wasn’t mine, it was scary and mysterious, and I didn’t want it.” Soon enough, his shenanigans with the puck draw attention from a local bully and other, unforeseen enemies. Much of the humor stems from Noah’s struggles to overcome his cowardice; other funny bits molded from poop jokes fall a bit flat. Mock “field notes” and reports on his friends and family repeatedly appear, offering contextual information from Noah’s perspective in a clever, albeit gratuitous way. As Noah grapples with his timidity and discovers that the puck’s origins may not be earthly, the story fizzles out in a cliffhanger ending.

An overstuffed, messy sci-fi narrative whose saving grace is an enjoyable main character. (Science fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4847-2552-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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THE ONE AND ONLY BOB

Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often...

CHARLOTTE'S WEB

A successful juvenile by the beloved New Yorker writer portrays a farm episode with an imaginative twist that makes a poignant, humorous story of a pig, a spider and a little girl.

Young Fern Arable pleads for the life of runt piglet Wilbur and gets her father to sell him to a neighbor, Mr. Zuckerman. Daily, Fern visits the Zuckermans to sit and muse with Wilbur and with the clever pen spider Charlotte, who befriends him when he is lonely and downcast. At the news of Wilbur's forthcoming slaughter, campaigning Charlotte, to the astonishment of people for miles around, spins words in her web. "Some Pig" comes first. Then "Terrific"—then "Radiant". The last word, when Wilbur is about to win a show prize and Charlotte is about to die from building her egg sac, is "Humble". And as the wonderful Charlotte does die, the sadness is tempered by the promise of more spiders next spring.

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often informative as amusing, and the whole tenor of appealing wit and pathos will make fine entertainment for reading aloud, too.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1952

ISBN: 978-0-06-026385-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1952

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