An extraordinarily moving, powerful tale about the resilience of grace and the joy of friendship.

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THE ADVENTURES OF BENNY THE BUNNY AND MR. RABBIT

Stuffed animals search for a long-lost friend in this debut literary fantasy for all ages.

The three inhabitants of well-appointed apartment 1K on New York City’s Upper West Side enjoy a fulfilling life of work, walks in the park, good food, and warm friendships. It’s a setup as cozy as themselves—all stuffed animals or, as they call themselves, wawas. Mr. Rabbit is an artist; Benny the Bunny is a writer; and Dr. Ursa, a bear, has a medical practice. One day, their comfortable routine is upended when Custerd, a “shockingly orange” cat wawa and a childhood friend of Benny’s, makes an unexpected visit. Though usually a bouncing, confident sort, Custerd has been feeling empty lately. His therapist believes he must search for Rogo, his and Benny’s stuffed lion companion from the old days who went missing 25 years ago in Australia. Mr. Rabbit, Benny, and Custerd head for Sydney, where they learn that after becoming separated from his boy, Rogo went on a walkabout (or, as kangaroos call it, a “hop-about”). With some Australian wawa companions, the friends’ hunt for Rogo brings them to a mysterious, forbidding fortress in the Outback that will test their courage, love, and ingenuity. Colin Krainin achieves something remarkable in his accomplished and poignant novel, giving a profound emotional and spiritual range to his stuffed-animal characters. They’re undeniably cuddly, appealing, and kind yet acutely aware of loss, which in turn is tempered: “But shining through the melancholy there often came, as sudden as the first aching sprouts of spring, a kind of grace.” Similarly, Custerd understands human evil as the desperate, dangerous refusal to be vulnerable. Debut illustrator Joan Platek Krainin’s charming pencil drawings capture the wawas’ cuteness but less so their pathos.

An extraordinarily moving, powerful tale about the resilience of grace and the joy of friendship.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2020

ISBN: 979-8691066900

Page Count: 144

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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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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A sympathetic, compelling introduction to wolves from the perspective of one wolf and his memorable journey.

A WOLF CALLED WANDER

Separated from his pack, Swift, a young wolf, embarks on a perilous search for a new home.

Swift’s mother impresses on him early that his “pack belongs to the mountains and the mountains belong to the pack.” His father teaches him to hunt elk, avoid skunks and porcupines, revere the life that gives them life, and “carry on” when their pack is devastated in an attack by enemy wolves. Alone and grieving, Swift reluctantly leaves his mountain home. Crossing into unfamiliar territory, he’s injured and nearly dies, but the need to run, hunt, and live drives him on. Following a routine of “walk-trot-eat-rest,” Swift traverses prairies, canyons, and deserts, encountering men with rifles, hunger, thirst, highways, wild horses, a cougar, and a forest fire. Never imagining the “world could be so big or that I could be so alone in it,” Swift renames himself Wander as he reaches new mountains and finds a new home. Rife with details of the myriad scents, sounds, tastes, touches, and sights in Swift/Wander’s primal existence, the immediacy of his intimate, first-person, present-tense narration proves deeply moving, especially his longing for companionship. Realistic black-and-white illustrations trace key events in this unique survival story, and extensive backmatter fills in further factual information about wolves and their habitat.

A sympathetic, compelling introduction to wolves from the perspective of one wolf and his memorable journey. (additional resources, map) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-289593-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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