Visually clever and verbally unusual.

MARCEL THE SHELL

THE MOST SURPRISED I'VE EVER BEEN

Philosophical univalve Marcel returns in this sequel to Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2011).

Speaking in a chatty first person, Marcel opens with visual close-ups of his distinctive red-and-white sneakers and his single giant eye, followed by a total body shot and the news that he’s feeling “pretty good about” himself. Unsure what each new day will bring, Marcel describes the day he “got the most surprised,” after suddenly finding himself tossed into the air while walking on a blanket and thinking about how much he loves cake. Time stands still as the airborne Marcel notices everything in the room below: the rug, a sneaker, the baby and his grandmother’s house. Momentarily suspended midair, Marcel thinks about his grandmother and the importance of beauty, comparing his weightless state to an astronaut’s. As he descends, Marcel admits he’s scared, recalling other events when he felt powerless: a paper airplane crashing, the baby’s first word, exploding popcorn. Subsequent to his fortuitous sweet landing atop a three-layer cake, Marcel concludes this day “took the cake.” Blurred illustrations reminiscent of airbrushed color photographs transform Marcel’s seemingly minor experience into a life-changing drama. Close-ups and aerial views allow readers to share the diminutive mollusk’s perspective and wonder at his self-reflective aplomb.

Visually clever and verbally unusual. (Picture book. 5 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59514-456-0

Page Count: 42

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Hee haw.

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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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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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