An entertaining read that may leave young readers confused.

FRIENDS FOR LIFE

Two puppies experience an unexpected adventure in Tiner’s middle-grade reader.

Bo meets Rico at a pet store after being separated from his mother for the first time. The puppies bond over their loneliness. Their chances of being adopted by a family are thrown into disarray when a pair of thieves breaks into the store and steals them both. Bo and Rico manage to escape but find themselves out on the streets for the first time in their young lives. A junkyard dog named Tank teaches them the ways of the streets. However, after Tank is unexpectedly adopted, Bo and Rico once again find themselves on their own. Months pass before the twosome happen upon Pearl, a pampered poodle who has been mistakenly left behind by her owner, Margaret. The puppies’ new mission is to find Margaret and reunite her with Pearl. Instead of concluding with Bo and Rico finding their own new homes, however, the story ends with the pair returning to the streets and happily reaffirming their friendship for one another. Tiner (Welcome Home, 2011) manages to breathe life into the book’s four main characters; Tank is perhaps the most memorable. The best scene in the book is one when Tank bonds with a firefighter; in that moment, when he “leans into the man’s embrace,” he transitions from Bo and Rico’s street-tough mentor to an average dog that needs a home. Still, the narrative could use tightening. There are moments when Bo seems to be the main character of the story and others when he and Rico seem to share the spotlight. The book is divided into two rather disparate storylines: the puppies’ youth with Tank and the adventure with Pearl. Considering the reading level of the text, the narrative would likely be better served if split apart into smaller, more easily digestible chapter books. Furthermore, the book’s theme of friendship as being more important than anything else is contradicted by the importance the narrative places on Tank finding a home and Pearl being reunited with her owner. The reader is led to believe that Bo and Rico’s story will conclude similarly, but it does not.

An entertaining read that may leave young readers confused.

Pub Date: May 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-1477435717

Page Count: 162

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2012

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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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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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