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Moving and buoyant, an insightful tale of grief, loss, and resilience.

In the wake of her mother’s sudden death, Willa navigates a new course with her blended family and friends on an island off Washington state, with the help of a humpback whale.

After her parents divorced three years ago, Willa moved to Japan with her marine biologist mom. Now back on Tupkuk Island, Willa, 12, struggles to adapt to her dad, new stepmom, three younger stepsiblings, and new baby. When she’s on a welcome-home, whale-watching cruise with her dad, a humpback breaches close by and speaks to her. Willa, an exceptionally well-informed marine enthusiast, is enchanted. When Willa calls her from the beach, Meg, a mature female who’s birthed and nurtured offspring of her own, offers a sympathetic ear and valuable advice on reinstating her friendship with Marc, her former best friend, coping with an overbearing, competitive classmate, and managing the mortification of being among the slowest on the swim team. Most of all, Meg’s there when Willa needs to pour out the grief that overwhelms her. Willa’s journals and many marine references express her passion for the ocean while introducing fascinating, lesser-known wonders of the deep. Latinx Marc and his family excepted, the likable, rounded human characters are presumed white. Mysterious, amazing, threatened, but enduring, the ocean itself conveys the enormity of grief and possibility of healing; plausible, appealing Meg’s especially engaging. As Willa says: “everyone should definitely have their own whale.”

Moving and buoyant, an insightful tale of grief, loss, and resilience. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62972-731-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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From the One and Only series , Vol. 4

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series.

Beloved gorilla Ivan becomes a father to rambunctious twins in this finale to a quartet that began with 2012’s Newbery Award–winning The One and Only Ivan.

Life hasn’t always been easy for silverback gorilla Ivan, who’s spent most of his life being mistreated in captivity. Now he’s living in a wildlife sanctuary, but he still gets to see his two best friends. Young elephant Ruby lives in the grassy habitat next door, and former stray dog Bob has a home with one of the zookeepers. All three were rescued from the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan’s expanded world includes fellow gorilla Kinyani—the two are about to become parents, and Ivan is revisiting the traumas of his past in light of what he wants the twins to know. When the subject inevitably comes up, Applegate’s trust and respect for readers is evident. She doesn’t shy away from hard truths as Ivan wrestles with the fact that poachers killed his family. Readers will need the context provided by knowledge of the earlier books to feel the full emotional impact of this story. The rushed ending unfortunately falls flat, detracting from the central message that a complex life can still contain hope. Final art not seen.

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series. (gorilla games, glossary, author’s note) (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780063221123

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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From the Wild Robot series , Vol. 3

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant.

Robot Roz undertakes an unusual ocean journey to save her adopted island home in this third series entry.

When a poison tide flowing across the ocean threatens their island, Roz works with the resident creatures to ensure that they will have clean water, but the destruction of vegetation and crowding of habitats jeopardize everyone’s survival. Brown’s tale of environmental depredation and turmoil is by turns poignant, graceful, endearing, and inspiring, with his (mostly) gentle robot protagonist at its heart. Though Roz is different from the creatures she lives with or encounters—including her son, Brightbill the goose, and his new mate, Glimmerwing—she makes connections through her versatile communication abilities and her desire to understand and help others. When Roz accidentally discovers that the replacement body given to her by Dr. Molovo is waterproof, she sets out to seek help and discovers the human-engineered source of the toxic tide. Brown’s rich descriptions of undersea landscapes, entertaining conversations between Roz and wild creatures, and concise yet powerful explanations of the effect of the poison tide on the ecology of the island are superb. Simple, spare illustrations offer just enough glimpses of Roz and her surroundings to spark the imagination. The climactic confrontation pits oceangoing mammals, seabirds, fish, and even zooplankton against hardware and technology in a nicely choreographed battle. But it is Roz’s heroism and peacemaking that save the day.

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780316669412

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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