Warmhearted, delightfully quirky, and believable.

THE SIMPLE ART OF FLYING

Alistair is an African grey parrot who is tortured by his life in captivity.

He narrates his tale in prose and poetry, alternating with Fritz Feldman, an almost-12-year-old boy who works in a pet shop, and Bertie Plopky, an elderly woman. The birds and animals all communicate with one another, displaying unique perspectives. Bertie speaks mainly through letters to her deceased husband, and Fritz keeps a journal. Although they were hatched in the pet shop, Alistair dreams of escaping with his sister, Aggie, to a world of trees and blue sky. His elaborate plans and attempts are always foiled, due in great part to his inability to fly because of a damaged wing. His frustration and anger lead him to pluck his own feathers and bite the hands that feed him. He refuses to see that Aggie is thoroughly content with her life as Fritz’s pet, and when Bertie purchases him, he is resentful and uncooperative in spite of her kindness. As their interactions increase, however, the humans and birds grow a loving friendship, finding insights into themselves and one another. Leonardo carefully balances fantasy with a grounded reality. The three narratives flow nicely at a measured pace over the course of a year, allowing readers to see a complete, complex picture of the intertwining lives. The punny headings and poetry references ("One Flew Over the Parrot's Cage—or—Parrot-ise Lost") will likely fly right over the heads of young readers. The book adheres to the white default.

Warmhearted, delightfully quirky, and believable. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2099-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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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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Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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